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Xavi talks Vitor Roque, Gavi, Ter Stegen, Romeu, Guardiola, Laporta ahead of Unionistas vs Barcelona

Following the Spanish Super Cup debacle, Barcelona will be eager to produce a strong reaction when they take on minnows Unionistas de Salamanca in the Copa del Rey Round of 16 tomorrow night.

Having seen off UD Barbastro in the previous round, the Blaugrana have been handed yet another easy draw in the cup competition. And they must make the most of the opportunity and send out a strong message with a big win, more so with doubts growing in recent days.

Ahead of the game, manager Xavi Hernandez addressed the media and discussed a wide range of topics, including the physical and mental state of his players after the Spanish Super Cup excursion in Saudi Arabia.

“We have to change our mindset. After the defeat in the Super Cup, we must have a good feeling. We are the favourites,” said the Barcelona manager.

Discussing their opponents, Unionistas, Xavi added: “Unionistas have shown their strength at home. They have eliminated Sporting and Villarreal. A very hard-working team. We have been analysing them. Difficult match but we have hopes for the Cup.”

On whether he had spoken with Barcelona president Joan Laporta after the Super Cup debacle, Xavi said:

“We had contact. Calmness. We are in good spirits and there are three titles left, the most important ones. Faith and confidence in the staff and players. The president is always positive. He is happy. One title has been lost but there are three at stake.”

There have been rumours that Xavi has already lost a part of the Barcelona dressing room after recent results. But dismissing those claims, he said:

“The days they are not with me, I will take my things and go home. We’re in a bad way. Defeats against Madrid are heavy and hard to digest. But we have always believed in what we do. From tomorrow we want to do it in the best possible way.”

Defending his position as manager, Xavi stated that his team has always met the objectives set by the club and are on track to do so again, saying:

“I have said it from day one. I’m here as coach because the objectives have been met. They come to Qatar and tell me that the objective is to finish in the top four: we came second. Last year, the objective was to win the league, and we won the league and the Super Cup.

“This year, to win titles. We lost the Super Cup and I have already apologised. Qualifying for the last 16 was an objective, and we have it. The objective is to win the Cup, the League, and the Champions League. If the objectives are not met, like all coaches…. That’s the reality of the club.”

Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola offered his backing and support to Xavi earlier this week and the latter thanked his former mentor for that, saying:

“First of all, I would like to thank Pep for his support and words of affection. He knows about the difficulty and demands of coaching such a big club. We have to be united. I am pleased with the president’s confidence.”

On the chat in training between the players and the staff, he said: “The players tell me to cheer up because this goes on. There are three titles left. We didn’t compete well in the final. We have to take heart. Madrid were where we were last year, we reversed the situation and won a title.”

On whether he and the team have lost the support of the fans, he replied: “The fans are excited. When they see me in the street they raise their fist in encouragement. I don’t see any disappointment from the fans.”

Despite the result on Sunday vs Real Madrid, Xavi insisted that the team had grown a lot from when he took over in 2021, saying:

“In the final everything went backwards. We have analysed a lot of things and I see that we failed. We have evolved a lot, from November 2021 until now. We can’t take the example of the Super Cup. The team has evolved a lot. We have to give it continuity and evolve defensively.”

Reiterating that his future is linked with achieving the objectives, he said: “I have always explained the objectives to you. There are three live ones: Cup, League and Champions League. The first was to qualify for the last 16. Last year, the league and that was achieved. The objectives have been met. If they are not met, I will go home.”

On the possibility of signings this month, he added: “Barça would not be able to afford it. We have to find a way to compete. We are in one of the most difficult situations in the club’s history.

“I have encountered difficulties from day one. I am a Culé and I want to pull the cart. I’m the first to encourage the players. It’s complicated but we are competing.”

On whether the absence of Gavi and other injured stars is hurting the team, Xavi replied: “Gavi’s injury is a stab in the heart. It is a reality. Or the injury to Ter Stegen, who is one of the captains. These are not excuses, it’s a reality. The economic situation is a reality. We will continue to fight.”

“There is only one Gavi in the world. It is difficult to replace such a player. We miss him.”

On the role of Oriol Romeu in the squad, he said: “Tomorrow Oriol Romeu can be very important. He will continue to participate and be very valuable.”

Confirming that Vitor Roque was suffering from discomfort during the Super Cup, he revealed: “Vitor had some discomfort and that’s why he didn’t take part in the Super Cup. He will have minutes.”

On the pressure that comes with Barcelona, he said: “I’ve already said it. It’s the pressure of being at Barça and the expectations that are generated. This is about winning. If you take Luis Aragones’ ‘win, win, win, win and win again’, this is it.”

On his future, Xavi added: “I will never be a problem for Barça. Above all, I’m a Culé and I love this club. Whatever happens. I am here to add and to help. When they tell me that I don’t contribute, I’ll go home without any problems.”

Source: SPORT

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