'We want to win and reach the last 16'
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Xavi Hernández has held his first Champions League press conference as Barça boss. He discussed a range of club issues and also analysed Benfica, who visit the Camp Nou for the Champions League group stage matchday 5 game on Tuesday (9.00pm CET). Here are some of his thoughts:
The win against Espanyol
“I am satisfied, we did very well until the last 10 minutes when Espanyol controlled the game a bit more. However, we were superior for 80 minutes, and we aim to dominate our opponents”.
The tough test against Benfica
“Tomorrow will be a difficult game, we are facing a great team with a very experienced top coach. Benfica are a very physical team with very good forwards. The Champions League game will be intense and played at a fast pace, but we are ready to compete and a win will take us into the last sixteen”.
“Benfica are a great team, and I have a lot of respect for Jorge Jesús. There is a spirit about the team, with great central defenders, a good midfield and very strong forwards - they are a top quality side. However, our aim is to win and impose our approach on the game, knowing that we will face difficult spells”.
The importance of the win
“We have to show we can play better and win, football is played on the pitch. We have to take it game by game, be confident, brave, and go for the three points. It won't be easy though, we lost 3-0 to Benfica when we faced them last time”.
“None of Ilias, Abde, and Ferran can play. Ilias is suspended after being sent off while playing in the Youth League, and Abde and Ferran aren't registered to play. Some of the players have knocks and we'll decide accordingly. We have hardly any specialist wide players to call on”.
Pedri and the Golden Boy award
“I am really happy for him, he deserves it, he puts in outstanding performances. He is a difference-maker for both Barça and the national team. He is very deserving of the award and I am really happy for him. He's currently going through a tough time with his injury, but we'll try to get him back as soon as we can - he is a key player, essential for the team. We have to ensure he doesn't relapse and can play, the situation is evolving”.
The responsibility of being at Barça
“We are Barça, you have to play every week or every three days. I see tomorrow's game as an opportunity, a challenge, and I love challenges. I prepare the team in defence, attack, and mentally, so they see tomorrow as an opportunity to reach the last sixteen”.
“Basically, the players we had to substitute on Saturday - Mingueza, Busquets and Nico - are fine. We'll see this evening and tomorrow, but I don't see any reason why they can't play on Tuesday. Regarding those with injuries - Dembélé, Sergi Roberto, and Dest - it depends on how they feel, we don't want players getting injured”.
Support from the fans
“I want to thank the Camp Nou for the atmosphere they created on Saturday, I had never experienced it, it was awesome and gave me goosebumps. We'll need the fans to help us tomorrow too, they are part of this and we want to be in the last sixteen”.
“The approach is the same regardless of the system. We want to press and win back the ball, with a winning mentality, wanting the ball, creating chances, and showing bravery”.
The importance of the coach
“The coach is a key component of the team. They have to convey an approach to the team, organising and instilling belief, but the players are the protagonists. The coach needs to provide guidance, though”.
“Every player is important for us. We can use different players in defence, it depends on the game. We have five great central defenders and we will need to use all five of them”.
“Goals aren't an issue, but they also have to come from other parts of the team. It can't be just the out and out attackers that score the goals. They can come from the central defenders, midfielders... the entire team has to step up”.
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