Dismounted from the Champions League at the first change because Benfica and Bayern were too much for the team, Barcelona now faces the Europa League against Napoli at the play off which gives access to eighths. “It makes us angry not to be in the Champions League, to listen to the music and not be there. It made me angry to see him from the sofa. It is that it gives courage not to be as it also gave me when they eliminated us. But it is something that we have to rebel against and face now as an opportunity to compete and continue to grow”, said Xavi, always ambitious; “It is an opportunity and a title that Barça does not have. It’s another motivation because we have to get back to the top.” Pedri seconded him: “We give a lot of value to the competition. We are not in the Champions League, where we would like, but we want to compete and win the Europa League”. Xavi completed: “Our objective is to enter the Champions League and for that we have two ways. Win the Europa League or finish the League in the top four. It is a European competition and we expect a great atmosphere”.
It happens that Naples is a rival of substance, third in Serie A with two points behind against Milan. “We haven’t been lucky in the draw and it could be a Champions League tie. It is a very compact team. He wants the ball, but he defends very well in a low block. It also has good counter. They are expeditious, physically strong and up top they have high-level surprises”, recited Xavi, who listed the virtues of each of his players, although he positively assessed the casualties of Lobotka, Napolitano, Lozano and possibly Osimhen because he did not exercise with him group in the last training session because he has muscle discomfort. Pedri also assessed the rival: “They come out well and have good strikers to play against. We must have the ball, dominate the midfield and trust ourselves more”, pointed out Pedri. Although the Barça coach added: “I wouldn’t say we’re favourites, it’s an open tie against a rival who’s fighting for shield. A rival of the rockiest in the competition. Perhaps Sevilla have more experience in this type of competition than us. I don’t see myself as favorites but as candidates.” Pedri, however, saw it differently: “I don’t think it’s a weight to be favorites, we’re used to that. It also happened in the Champions League”.
Part of Barcelona’s future is at stake in this tie, nothing new since Xavi took over 100 days ago. “It seems like 100 years,” he mused aloud; “We have been through unexpected situations, injuries, covid cases, the winter market… But it has been managed and I have tried to help the club, the players because I am very culé. There is a lot of work, but it is grateful even though we are not in the best moment in history, but that also makes you grow as a person”. And, convinced of his ideas and performance, he added: “I think we have improved in the game. In the high pressure, in dominating the matches… We are growing as you can see in the League, which is the regular competition”. It is also reflected in the Europa League, where it seems that Aubameyang could already occupy the position of center forward and there is doubt about which player will rest, if Adama, Gavi or De Jong, since it is taken for granted that Pedri, Busquets and Ferran Torres will leave the match. “It is very positive for me to be able to choose, that they compete to win the position. We have a good range of possibilities at the top and that is very positive for the group and for me, for everyone”, closed the coach.
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