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Xavi Hernández is more than aware of the difficulty of facing a team such as Atlético Madrid - he did it on no less than 32 occasions as a player - and now as a coach he renews his rivalry with former Atlético player and current coach of los colchoneros, Diego Simeone. The Barça boss will be looking for his fourth win in four matches against Atlético when they face off on Sunday at 9pm CET at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys.
The importance of the fans
In his pre-game press conference at the Ciutat Esportiva on Saturday, coach Xavi was in no doubt about the keys to the encounter. "We are playing at home and we need the fans. It's really important for people to come up to Montjuïc, to support us so we can put in a good performance," explained the blaugrana boss, before adding, "It's only three points but they are direct rivals for trophies this season."
Praise for Diego 'Cholo' Simeone
"Simeone's teams are always difficult to attack against. Each day I have more respect and admiration for Cholo. For all that he has done. So many years at a big club...he has changed the history of the club and that has a lot of merit. He has adapted to the players that he has. At the moment he has a lot of technical players, a more attacking team, both things. They all work hard for the team, that is what is great about 'Cholo'," admitted Xavi.
"We have a tough test against a top side who are in the Champions League, and next Sunday we have another. That's Barça."
Support from the president
The final training session of the week saw a visit from president Joan Laporta, something that always pleases the coach. "He comes from time to time and he encouraged us to put in a big performance. He shows a lot of confidence in us, in the staff and the players. He is always positive, in a good mood and joking, it's a happy moment when he comes into the dressing room," continued Xavi.
A game between two big teams in which João Félix will be in the spotlight as he is on loan at Barça from Atlético. "It should be an extra motivation for him to play against them. He is motivation and happ, I can see that and he brings us a lot. He is committed and I am delighted with his performance and how he has settled into the squad," added the blaugrana coach.
Ter Stegen misses out
In contrast, Xavi admitted that Marc ter Stegen would not be back for Sunday's clash after missing the last two matches against Rayo and Porto with a back problem. "He's tried but it is still troubling him. We will see next week. He's down because he can't help but he's out for tomorrow."
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