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Rakitic spoke to the press at Thursday. lunchtime. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

It was Ivan Rakitic’s turn to speak to the media on Thursday, and naturally the main focus was this weekend’s game with Villarreal. “It’ll be difficult because Marcelino makes his teams work very hard” said the Croatian. “But we just have to focus on ourselves. We’re very positive about the trip”.

After such a fine display at the Camp Nou last Sunday, the new signing feels that “it is very important for people to realise that we’re making progress. There have been a lot of changes to the team in every area, but you can tell that we’re constantly improving.”There have been a lot of changes to the team in every area, but you can tell that we’re constantly improving

After his first month at Barça, Rakitic is enjoying things as much as ever. “It’s great to play alongside the best players in the world” he says. “I want to make the most of this opportunity, and good performances motivate me even more … I always work hard to be picked for every game. And then I try to repay the manager for his confidence by doing well on the pitch”.

The midfielder was asked whether he has been asked by Luis Enrique to play any particular role on the pitch. “He has told me to shoot from outside the area” was his reply. “That’s one of my defining characteristics and with the style of play that we have, it can be a useful solution.”I always work hard to be picked for every game. And then I try to repay the manager for his confidence

He was also asked about some of his team team-mates. One of these was Munir, who had such a superb debut performance. Rakitic was already aware what a talented player the 18-year-old is, so it came as no surprise at all to see him do so well, adding that “there are no limits to what he can achieve if he carries on working as he has done until now”. He also mentioned Messi, who was back to his best on Sunday. “There’s not much I can say about him” he said. “He’s the best player in the world. I thank God for this chance to share a team with him.” And as for new signing Douglas, the Croat admitted that he doesn’t much about the player, but is convinced that “the people at this club know what they are doing. We’ll welcome him like we welcome all new team-mates and I’m sure he’ll be a big help to us all”.

Champions League wishes

Ivan Rakitic was also asked to say which teams he’d like to be drawn against in the Champions League. He isn’t overly bothered, because “there is nothing we can do change it. All we can do is show respect for all the teams in the draw and wait and see who we get.” However, there is one team he’d be particularly pleased to face, although that’s for personal rather than sporting reasons. “I’d love to be drawn against Basel” he said. “Because then I’d be able to go home.” Rakitic was of course born in Switzerland and played his first professional games for FC Basel.

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