Competition Focus

‘Time To Turn The Tables’

FC Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez spoke ahead of his team’s showdown with Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday and declared, “It’s time to turn the tables” at a pre-match press conference.

The two teams go into their last 16 second leg tied at 1-1 after battling to that scoreline in Naples last month.

For Barca, winning would put them through to the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite competition for the first time since the 8-2 mauling Bayern Munich administered in 2020, which is not lost on Xavi.

“It’s the most important game of the season so far. We are ready and excited. It’s been four years since we’ve reached the quarter-finals. Competition is the key word.

“Our opponents are not going through their best moment, but they are still the reigning Serie A champions. We need the fans to experience another great night,” Xavi said.

Asked specifically about the pressure of such an encounter, Xavi boldly stated: “It’s time to turn the tables.”

“It’s time to be able to reach the quarter-finals. It’s an opportunity, a game in front of our fans. We’ve got some absentees, but we have no excuses. We have to be brave. We are not afraid to fail, on the contrary, [but] we need to show that we have the level [to advance],” the manager demanded.

“Tomorrow I’m not the important one, it’s the club. I have an expiration date,” Xavi said, in relation to him stepping down on June 30.

“[But] with the union of the Barca fans, with the stadium full, it’s time to experience another magical night. I don’t prioritise myself, I prioritise the club and the team.”

Xavi confirmed that Ferran Torres is not fit enough to face the Italians and will therefore return to a squad list for the first time since January when Barca travels to face Atletico Madrid at the Metropolitano on Sunday evening.

“There’s no relapse, but the feeling isn’t that of being at 100%. If all goes well, he’ll be ready for Atletico Madrid’s day,” Xavi said on the Spain international.

As for Torres’ fellow La Roja star Lamine Yamal, plus a figure that could soon join them in the national team senior ranks in Pau Cubarsi, Xavi insisted that the pair are being “managed with confidence” and could have opportunities to play in “the best club competition in the world”.

“It’s spectacular that they can be [here] at 16 to 17 years old. Let them enjoy it,” Xavi suggested.

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