Competition Focus

FC Barcelona Coach Xavi Says Dembele Exit To PSG Left ‘Bad Taste’

FC Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez confessed that Ousmane Dembele’s exit from the club last summer left a “bad taste” in his mouth ahead of his side again meeting the PSG winger in the Champions League.

At a prematch press conference ahead of Tuesday’s quarterfinal second leg, Xavi also confirmed one key change to his line up and called on fans in the Montjuic Stadium to create a “cauldron” atmosphere for the visitors.

With the chance to reach the elite European competition’s last four for the first time since 2019 on the line while Barca leads 3-2 on aggregate, Xavi called the UCL meeting “a great opportunity for us as a club”.

“We’re playing at home, we have that factor in our favour. Montjuic has to resemble the magical nights of the Camp Nou. I envision a game very similar to the first leg: they won’t hold back, they’ll put pressure on us, they’ll go forward…,” Xavi predicted.

“We’ll have to find the spaces and show personality to go through to the semifinals. We’re talking about one of the best teams and coaches in the world. We’re really excited.”

With the defence and the attacking line expected to be the same as they were at the Parc des Princes a week ago, Xavi confirmed a huge call he will make in midfield.

As Sergio Roberto and Andreas Christensen are both suspended, it involves Pedri making his first start since a March 3 La Liga clash away at Athletic Club, where a reoccurrence of his right thigh knock saw him leave the San Mames pitch in tears.

“I think he’s ready to start from the beginning. All those who are called up are ready to play the full 90 minutes. At half time, we’ll talk about fatigue and bumps. Pedri will be very important tomorrow,” Xavi insisted.

One player that Xavi won’t be able to call on of course is his former winger Ousmane Dembele, who joined PSG last summer when the Qatar-backed Ligue 1 giants activated his release clause.

The manager admitted that the Frenchman’s exit “tasted bad to me”, especially with his ex-number 7 “in an extraordinary moment”.

“I don’t hold a grudge against him. Tomorrow I’ll greet him, as I did in Paris. With respect, I appreciate him.”

That being said, Dembele is expected to be jeered by the Montjuic Stadium faithful because of the vigour with which he celebrated a second half strike against his former employers in the first leg..

“Let people show what they feel,” Xavi suggested, neither encouraging nor discouraging potential hecklers in Catalonia.

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