Xavi prepared for ‘Champions League level Napoli’ and drops Dembele hint

Xavi wants his Barcelona side to ‘dominate and impose their game’ in tomorrow’s Europa League play-off clash against Napoli.

The match between the Blaugrana and the Partenopei finished 1-1 at the Camp Noi last week, when Piotr Zielinski scored the opener before a Ferran Torres penalty in the second half tied up the game.

The removal of the away goals rule means that Napoli need to secure a win at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona tomorrow if they want to progress to the next stage of the competition.

Speaking in a press conference today, Xavi first discussed how Barcelona will approach tomorrow’s Europa League clash.

“We will face it as if we had won 2-1 or 3-1. Napoli will do a lot of pressing, we will have to dominate the game, impose our game with possession of the ball.

“Napoli will have the stadium on their side, an important fan base, we have to follow with our system, with our style. We’re ready.”

He touched on how he expects Napoli to play in the tie.

“They will press high, we want to play in their half of the pitch. They will be a physical team, there will be confrontations for the ball. Napoli are at the level of the Champions League, in fact they are fighting for the Scudetto, so we will have to keep the ball.”

The Spanish coach suggested that he was not particularly worried ahead of this game.

“Every game is like a cup final. Having not done our homework well, we will have to win the qualification here. We are motivated, we want to show. We will use our style, we have improved and we are on the right track.”

Xavi discussed the importance of Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona. Napoli’s stadium is now named after the former player.

“It’s an honour to play here. He was a footballer who was a reference for everyone, we still watch his videos and get excited. There’s Messi, otherwise he would be the best of all time. He was in his era, he marked an era. And it will be an honour to play here.”

The Barcelona coach spoke about how disappointing it would be to drop out of European competition with a loss tomorrow.

“Definitely it would be hugely disappointing, it’s a European competition anyway. We want to show that we can compete. We did well in the first leg, now we’re playing here.

“We will have to keep possession of the ball and press, that’s how you create chances. It’s another chance to prove our worth.”

Speaking about if he would rather play poorly but win or play well but lose, Xavi had no doubts.

“If I have to choose I’d prefer to play well and win. Good play always leads to a good result. We played very well against Valencia, Villarreal, Sevilla, Atletico. We are in an upward phase, but what counts are the results. The feelings are good.”

He commented on Barcelona’s famed youth system and the fact that only Lorenzo Insigne is the only Napoli youth product in the first team.

“I don’t know, I don’t know what happens in Naples day by day and in Italy. We have always focused a lot on the youth system because home-grown players give that extra something.

“Barcelona work very well with young players, Gavi, Nico, Araujo, Busquets, Piqué. The great thing is that Barcelona can count on 17-18 year old players who already make a difference on the pitch.”

Xavi touched on why Barcelona always seem to struggle when playing away from home.

“We’re talking about other seasons, I don’t know. We have to return to the model of play we had before, both at domestic level and in the Europa League.

“We have to recover everything to return to the top European level, even if we face a Champions League level Napoli, for players, history and coach. We are still missing something to go back to being what we used to be.”

Finally, Xavi provided an update of Ousmane Dembélé and any possible contract renewal.

“I can see that he’s happy and acting like a professional. I’ve heard all sorts of things, but I can say that he\s trained hard even when he wasn’t called up.

“If he wasn’t a professional I wouldn’t play him, instead he gives something positive to the squad and will give a lot from now until the end of the season.”

One Comment on “Xavi prepared for ‘Champions League level Napoli’ and drops Dembele hint”

  1. He makes a really good point about the difference in youth systems. Italian teams should really improve their academies’ facilities and start giving youngsters a chance.

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