Xavi Hernández / PHOTO: Miguel Ruiz - FCB

Xavi Hernandez spoke to reporters at a press conference on Thursday morning following Wednesday’s Cup win against Cordoba. He had plenty of good things to say about Sunday’s opponents and insisted that Atletico Madrid would challenge for the league title right to the end of the season. “They haven’t slipped up much. They know what they’re doing, the coach does a really good job and they have a player up front like Falcao”.

As regards his contract renewal, he explained: “The two sides didn’t take long to reach an agreement. My dream of seeing out my career at Barça will come true. I’m so happy to be able to finish (my playing career) here. If I can still be here at the age of 36 it will be a privilege. The Club is the love of my life. For the moment I just want to enjoy myself until 2016”.

Few changes

There have been few changes to Barça’s game since Tito Vilanova took over as first team manager. For Xavi, it’s mainly been a question of the fall of the dice in front of goal: “Few things have changed. Last season the ball didn’t go in at certain moments. Now good fortune is going our way. We’re happy and working flat out in training, and we’re still really hungry. Everything has stayed the same and it’s important that we have this winning dynamic”.

Asked about David Villa, Xavi revealed: “He’s in a really good dynamic; physically he’s great, he’s got over his injury and he looks really good to me”. As for Abidal, he told the assembled reporters: “Now it all depends on him and the doctors. His morale is really high. We’ll have to see when he can come back. That’s what we all want most of all”.

Praise for Iniesta

With the upcoming Ballon D’Or award the subject of much heated debate, Xavi Hernandez insisted that, apart from Messi, Andrés Iniesta deserves to be recognised. “He’s been proving his value for a long time. He’s a phenomenal player. He keeps possession, gets past his marker. He’s the complete player and it’s obvious that he deserves the Ballon d’Or”.

When asked about the importance of Leo Messi to the team he explained that he couldn’t imagine Barça without the Argentine striker. “A squad without Messi? I can’t even consider it. He’s the best player in the world and he makes the difference. We need him and the team needs him. But they’ll be matches when he’s not playing and others will have to make the difference”.

 

Down to the wire

Although Barça currently enjoys an eleven-point lead over Real Madrid, Xavi doesn’t believe José Mourinho’s men are out of the race for the league title: “Is Real Madrid vulnerable? What I see is that it’s getting more and more difficult to win away from home. Other teams are getting better and better at analysing Barça and Real Madrid. It’ll get more and more difficult and the other teams also have a lot at stake. At the moment Barça is doing better and it seems that Real Madrid is doing badly, but it’s not like that. I remember that in the 2008/09 season we had 12 points more than them and they caught up”.


Finally, he gave his opinion on the proposed educational reform recently outlined by the Spanish government which would affect the use of Catalan in schools in Catalonia: “It’s our right to speak Catalan. It’s our philosophy of life and I don’t agree with the Minister (of Education). Politicians are there to solve these problems and I’m not happy with this”.