Barcelona will come face to face with their eternal rivals Real Madrid on Sunday in the Spanish Super Cup final as they look to win the first trophy of the Xavi Hernandez era.
the Blaugrana made it through to the finals after defeating Real Betis 4-2 on penalties, with the game having ended 2-2 even after 120 minutes of action.
Barcelona have not lost any of their matches since the restart of the season after the World Cup break. However, they have not looked entirely convincing either but have shown the fortitude to eke out wins even when not playing at their best.
The same mental strength will be required on Sunday when they take on a Real Madrid side that, in recent years, has much more experience when it comes to playing finals and winning trophies.
Ahead of the game, Xavi spoke to the media and opened up on several topics like their opposition and his own players.
On facing Real Madrid: “I see Madrid very, very strong. They have a slight advantage because they’ve played more finals, they’ve played more finals, they have more experience. But we have to show our ambition and that we want to finally win a title.”
“The first 60 minutes the other day were very good, we have to maintain our structure and ambition against a very strong Madrid. We’re excited, we have to keep going.”
On Jordi Alba’s comments on the trophy being important to youngsters: “We have a lot of players who haven’t won titles at Barça, we have to see it as a tremendous opportunity. The veterans also have to show class and experience.”
On Madrid getting an extra day’s rest: “We could play the semi-finals on the same day next year, it would be fairer, but the physical issue is no excuse. There are players who ended up with injuries but they are all available. But tomorrow is a final and we have to be there.
“When you start playing football as a child, it’s to play finals, many with the club you love and against Madrid. We’re not afraid or anxious, we have a golden opportunity to win a title that would give us a lot of confidence. Let’s go ahead and go for the Super Cup.”
On the desire to win titles: “At Barça, winning is non-negotiable. We’re here to win titles, that’s our objective. We are 90 or 120 minutes away from winning a title and we are going for it. Not because the rival is Madrid, but with someone else, we would have the same desire. We have a lot of enthusiasm.”
“I have said many times that I don’t prioritize myself, I prioritize the club, Barça, the players… it is Barça that must win titles. As the man in charge, I will try to do my best to win the final. Whether we win or lose, we will continue to compete for all the titles. We’re especially excited to be playing Madrid in the final, a Clasico, it would mean a lot to Barça fans.
On his angry reaction during the Betis game: “I am hyper-motivated, as a coach it is a shame because many times it is not up to me to make a pass, score a goal…. As a coach, you suffer more, but luckily I’ve played in a lot of finals. The other day I was angry because I didn’t think they had to go into extra time with a 2-2 draw against Betis.”
On the plans against Real Madrid: “It’s different to the Clasico in La Liga, we have the full squad available and that’s a big difference. We will try to show our game and control their transitions and dismantle them in defense where they are very strong.
“Attacking them and defending in the best possible way to try and win the Super Cup, it doesn’t vary much from October”.
On reaching the final: “The first objective was to reach the final, it has not been easy. We are here to win and take the Super Cup to Barcelona. It’s nice to play in a final, and also against Madrid it’s a bonus for the cules.”
On the areas to improve: “There are always things to improve. It’s football, it’s a game of mistakes and there will always be mistakes. We try to minimize these mistakes as much as possible.
“There is an opponent who can often dominate you, be more aggressive, don’t lose high pressure, of course there are aspects that worry me, we have to improve them. We analyze each game and work to improve.”
On the VAR: “Maybe with VAR you lose the spice of football, the celebration, wait because it’s not validated yet…. But on the other hand, it is fairer. I like fairness and that’s how it is. Except for the interpretable plays.
“There are things like offside that are unquestionable, you whistle and that’s it. You lose a bit of the essence of the celebration but that’s it”.
On the objective of the team: “We have an obligation to win this title. I don’t remember it being so different from when I was a player. It changes and varies very little. Now I’m a coach and I have to prepare the details so that the players are at their best.”
On Gavi: “The passion and intensity that Gavi brings is always necessary. We will see how the minutes go and the options of playing with four midfielders or with open wingers.
“We have many variations in attack and depending on how the opponent plays we try to attack in one way or another. Gavi gives us a lot of things, he is a key player in midfield and important for the team”.
On Ronald Araujo: “Ronald is extraordinary defensively, maybe one of the best in the world, correcting, one-on-one in space, he is a tremendous corrector for us. having him give us security and leadership. It’s an option for him to play full-back.”
On Carlo Ancelotti not having lost a final since 2010: “The statistics are there to be changed. I am motivated and satisfied to reach a final. We have to know where we have come from. We have Madrid in front of us, it’s extra motivation and if Ancelotti hasn’t lost a final since 2010 it motivates me even more.”
On his team selection: “I haven’t decided yet how we will start in attack. In principle, everyone is available and we will choose according to what we think is best for the team. I don’t think it will depend on individuals but on how we defend or attack. I don’t think it will depend on names.”
On Ansu Fati: “Ansu came on at the end for example and made a difference. Everyone has to be ready. A lot of things can change in the match.”
On the classics during Jose Mourinho’s era: “Mourinho’s era of the Classics was not positive for anyone, neither of the two teams gave a good image, we have to show chivalry.”
On his relationship with Ancelotti: “I have a good relationship with Ancelotti, we’ve met many times, I think he’s an extraordinary person and I think he’s a footballing gentleman, we have to go along the same lines and not just go out and say it’s just a sporting war , I have admiration for the coach and for several Madrid players and I don’t have to hide.”
On possible exits in January: “I have already said that I don’t want anyone to leave, but if someone has to leave, we have to make up for it. I’m not going to name names because we’re focused on the final, but if someone wants to leave we have to make up for this possible absence.”
sources: RFEF Twitter