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Lewandowski talks Barcelona form, Vitor Roque, Xavi replacement, title chances, referees

After a successful first year at Barcelona, Robert Lewandowski has had an indifferent second season at the club thus far.

The 35-year-old striker has found goals hard to come by while his overall game also appears to have deteriorated, leading to criticism from several quarters.

Barça, as a whole, have struggled this season in comparison to the last campaign during which they won the La Liga and Spanish Super Cup titles.

Differences between last season and this season

In an interview with SPORT, Lewandowski discussed the Catalans’ decline from last season to this one, saying:

“If we talk about the first year, yes, it’s completely different because we played very well, we won a lot of games and there were a lot of goals. This year it’s a little bit more difficult, but that’s normal, this is football. We have to work.”

Expressing confidence that Barcelona can turn things around, he said: “I am always positive about the future because we have great players and, although the situation is a bit difficult, we have to play until the end of the season and, if we win a lot of games, we have chances to win the league.”

When asked what had changed to cause this sort of difference, he replied: “It’s difficult to explain in just one word, there are many things. We also have a slightly different team to the first year, less experienced players, now with many young players and of course, they have a lot of potential, a lot of talent, but in the end, you also need experience.

“And with this team you need a little bit of time to play well or better. We know where we are and now we will have a little bit of time until the end to work on training sessions, exercises… I’m sure we can win a lot of games this season.”

Title chances

As things stand, Barcelona are third in La Liga, eight points behind leaders Real Madrid. When asked if the Catalans can still win the title, Lewandowski replied:

“Many things can happen. Now we are six points behind Girona and eight behind Madrid, but we have a lot of games to play. Real Madrid too and can lose many points, but the first thing is that we play much better and win every game. If that happens, we will have a chance in La Liga.

“We also have the Champions League, which is very important for the team and for the future. I think everything is still possible this season.”

On the Catalans’ chances in the Champions League, where they face Napoli in the Round of 16, Lewandowski said:

“In the tie against Napoli, the most important thing is how we are going to play. Napoli are a very good team and they also have problems in Serie A, but the most important thing is us. If we do much better than we have done so far, we can definitely be in the next round.”

On personal form, mindset

Well below his best. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

As iterated earlier, it has been an indifferent season for Lewandowski, with the striker going through lean patches in front of goal. But the 35-year-old admitted that he feels good and wants to keep working.

“I was in a difficult moment because I didn’t have many chances to score and defensively we conceded a lot. Offensively, not only for me, but for the whole team, it was difficult to be at a high level, but as a team, we are going to work and we are working,” he said.

“If we keep scoring goals and playing well for one or two more games, we will gain confidence to continue at the same level.”

On how not scoring regularly affected him and his game, Lewandowski explained: “At the moment I feel very good, physically too, but, for a striker and a goalkeeper I think they are two positions, not very similar, but similar on the pitch. Because if the striker has less contact with the ball for two, three or four weeks, he is a little bit slower.

“And even if you then have many more chances, it’s difficult to be prepared. If you have duels on the pitch with your opponent, you are more prepared, but without duels, without the ball, and without chances, then you lack patience and confidence. All these details together make the difference.”

On the squad

Lewandowski mentioned earlier that the squad is younger and that has played a part in Barcelona’s issues this season. When asked whether the roster is one for the future than for the present, he replied:

“The young players have a great future at Barcelona, but they need a bit more time, that’s normal. You have quality and talent, which is important, although it’s normal that at 16 the mentality is a little different to if you are 22, 23 or 25.

“It’s normal, this happens all over the world, not just in football. Another thing is if you are 16 or 17 years old and you play for the Barcelona first team, being at a top level. It’s very difficult.”

Calling for protection on the younger players, he added: “Two, three or four years are important for young players, to know where they want to go… They need protection as well. You need a target and challenges for the future, not for now or next year.

“If you want players for ten years, it’s important now to have a balance between young and experienced players. For the future of the club, you need to go carefully today.”

On Vitor Roque

Barcelona brought in Vitor Roque last month to help and support Lewandowski in the No. 9 role and provide more competition. In the Brazilian’s few appearances, Xavi has, at times, fielded both of them together on the pitch.

When asked if he feels he and Roque are compatible, the Pole said: “For me it’s better if I play with someone close to me because I have more options to play with one touch or two touches. If I am with one or two opponents very close, I leave space for others. If we attack with two players it is easier to score goals.”

Barcelona’s new attacking partnership. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

“Playing with a player very close, there are more options in attack and inside the box. This is very important because many teams play very defensive, with many players in the box, and we always need a solution,” he added.

Discussing Vitor Roque’s sending-off against Alaves, which rules him out of the Granada clash, the Pole added: “The second yellow for Vitor is a situation that I don’t understand why the VAR doesn’t work at that moment. It’s difficult for Vitor, he’s young and very emotional, but it’s not his fault. The next game he will be with us.”

On the referees in La Liga

Referees in La Liga have come under the spotlight of late, with Barcelona’s Xavi and Joan Laporta accusing Real Madrid of pressuring match officials and influencing decisions.

Lewandowski, during his time at the club, has been on the receiving end of some harsh calls from referees. And when asked about the current situation, he said:

“I think this whole situation is not a problem of the referees, but of the VAR. It doesn’t work perfectly, but in the end we can’t do anything about it, we have to focus more on our work. The solution is to score two more goals than the opponent, one or two more goals every time. It’s not just a goal, it’s the solution.”

On Xavi’s exit, possible replacements

Lewandowski also spoke about Xavi’s decision to leave Barcelona at the end of the season, admitting that he understands the coach’s stance given the pressure that there is at the club.

“From an emotional point of view it’s very difficult for Xavi and I understand him perfectly. Not only for him, but for his family as well. Now the best thing is to focus on this season because we can still win with Xavi,” he said.

The veteran forward was then asked about the possible replacements for Xavi, with names like Jurgen Klopp, Julian Nagelsmann, and Hansi Flick, managers whom he has played under in the past, being linked.

“I also worked with Guardiola. And Ancelotti. And many coaches, but now I don’t want to talk about the new coach because the most important thing is Xavi. And this season,” said Lewandowski on the matter.

“It’s very important. I don’t want to think about what happens next. We are a team and we want to go together in one direction and, if we do that, we can win.”

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