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Coming into the decisive stage of the season, Xavi Hernández has spoken about Barça’s current situation in an interview with www.uefa.com. The midfielder is optimistic about the second leg of the Champions League quarter final, is pleased that Tito Vilanova is back, has analysed the way the team in playing and added that he expects the team’s success to continue.
- A few hours have passed and your head is cooler, so what do you now make of the draw with PSG?
"I feel positive, because it was a 2.2 draw away from home. But looking back at the game, I feel bad about it, because we went 2-1 up practically in the 90th minute and then they equalised in the very last move of the match. But it wasn’t a bad result, it was good. There are 90 minutes left at home and we’ll be playing in front of our own fans, and against Milan they made as much noise as they could. It’s a pity about the injuries, both Mascherano and Leo. We’ll see how Leo is, but it looks like Mascherano is out for a month or a month and a half. … They’re big losses. But it was a good result, we’re the favourites, we’re at home and there are 90 minutes left to play. But looking back at the last game, the way they scored with the last move of the game leaves a bad taste in your mouth".
- What can you say about the return leg now that you have such big defensive losses in Mascherano, Puyol and Adriano?
"We’re suffering a lot of injuries at the back. Puyol has had an operation. Abidal has come back from a long and serious problem. Adriano is injured, now Mascherano... We’re having no luck at the back. But we’ll have eleven players, that’s for sure, and we’ll see what the boss decides to do. There are players to bring in as substitutes. We’re optimistic because we know we’re playing at home, but PSG have a great team, they’re quick up front and play well on the counter. They’re no small fries, they’re a big team”.
- You said just now that it hurt to concede an equaliser so late. But it’s still an away draw and you scored the second goal from a penalty. That could make a big difference to the tie...
"The most important thing was getting two away goals. It was important to score and Leo Messi’s goal gave us a lot of confidence and that boosted the team. We did well in the second half, we had the possession, and came close to 2-0. Then they equalised, but we kept dominating and eventually got a penalty and it looked like the tie was sorted. But then they got an equaliser in that unfortunate move. But overall we’re positive about it, even though the way it ended hurt”.
- One of the best pieces of news is that Tito Vilanova is back on the bench. How important is it for the team to have your manager back?
"It’s vitally important. We have been without our head coach, without the boss, and that shows. We have all worked hard together, from Jordi Roura to Altamira and Edu Pons, who are all part of the staff, and even the captains and the youngest players. We’ve have all pulled together and trained hard, but we were still missing the man who for months and months has been doing the team talks, who has been laying the first stone. And you miss that. But he’s back, and back in a confident mood and with a positive mentality despite what he’s been through. He is an example for us all, because of the way he has fought and suffered. He’s been away for two months but we have been in contact with him. He is very motivated about the rest of the season and our objectives. We’re doing well in the league and in a good position in the Champions League. We’re are really hoping that things can work out, and even more for him, because he deserves everything we’ve fought for, and for the way he has stood by the team even though he’s been fighting against an illness”.
- What did the comeback against AC Milan mean to you?
"It was heads or tails. I think we were unlucky in Milan. We didn’t play well as a team, but 2-0 was too cruel a result. We knew we’d have things in our favour at home, with our fans, with the pitch damp as we like it, because that gets the ball moving. I think it was a turning point, because we had just lost the cup semi final against Real Madrid, and that was a big blow to us. But we recovered well, we recovered the best of Barça in attack, we started creating pressure up front again, what we’d been missing in games before … We all pulled our socks up and made sure of making a comeback against such a great team as Milan”.
- As a midfielder, what are you trying to do when you play? What is your aim in each game?
"I think a lot about the game and imagine what the opposition will play like. I think about whether we should keep the ball in the middle or whether they’ll give us space to prove superior on the wings. There are a lot of things. I try to make the game flow and to think a bit about where they keys to the match lie, and to transfer all the things that you get from being a veteran of the game, to help your team mates, to make the team work together … So many things. Obviously I try to play well individually, and to help the team to play good football and win”.
- You have made more passes than any other player this season in the Champions league. What kind of notice do you take of these statistics?
"None. I read a lot about these things, but what I always try to do is find a chance for my team mates. I go where the ball goes. I try to understand the game a bit and work out what the team needs. I try to get us to outnumber them two against one or three against two. I try to understand the play and work out what the team needs, and my role stems from that: hold onto the ball, not lose it, create fluidity, go from one side to the other, to have an idea of where the other team is going to attack from. That’s why I’m the kind of player that participates more in attacking moves”.
- You won the Champions League two years ago at Wembley. Was that the greatest display yet by this generation of FC Barcelona players?
"Evidently it’s titles that have brought us to that level. Everyone respects us and admires us, and we are very happy to have won so many things. And yes, the team played very well against Manchester United that day, it was generally excellent all round. We did what we train to do each day, to be the protagonists and to have the ball. We saw an excellent Barça that day, but we also saw that in the final against Manchester in 2009 and in so many games against Real Madrid both home and away. I think we’ve had four or five excellent years in which Barcelona have been very, very good. But I think there are still some great games left in this generation and we’ll enjoy even further success”.
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