Xavi Hernandez defended Barcelona‘s season and the progress made under him in the face of criticism following Wednesday’s Copa del Rey semifinal defeat to Real Madrid.
Barca followed up Champions League and Europa League exits with a 4-0 loss to Madrid at Spotify Camp Nou to raise doubts about the team’s ability to compete on the biggest occasions.
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However, with the Spanish Super Cup already won — Barca beat Madrid in the final — and the chance to move 15 points clear at the top of LaLiga with victory over Girona on Monday, Xavi said people are minimising the Blaugrana’s success.
“We are talking about winning LaLiga,” Xavi said in a news conference on Sunday. “I don’t get it. Winning LaLiga is the bee’s knees. We have won five Champions Leagues in our history, which is really good, but it is demanded that we win it?
“Winning LaLiga brings stability. I remember [former Madrid coach Zinedine] Zidane said after winning the Champions League that the objective was to win LaLiga. From the inside, we value really highly what we are doing against a really strong Madrid. Winning LaLiga is being minimised when for us it will be extraordinary.”
Barca were ninth in LaLiga when Xavi took the job at the end of 2021 and won just one Copa del Rey in the three seasons prior to this term, while not lifting the league title since 2019.
“We value where we came from and where we are, especially against a great team like Madrid, the LaLiga and Champions League holders,” Xavi added. “I can’t control how it’s viewed from the outside.”
Madrid’s defeat to Villarreal on Saturday means Barca can further extend their lead at the top when they host Girona at Camp Nou, although Xavi said the title is not wrapped up yet and acknowledged there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“We want to be champions and Monday can be another step towards that,” he said. “It’s a huge chance to go 15 points clear with 30 to play for and we can’t slip up.
“We are having an extraordinary league season. We have already won the Super Cup and we want to end the campaign with two trophies. We competed until the semifinal in the Copa. It’s true we didn’t do well in Europe, but we’re still building.
“We lack maturity at times in the so-called big games, but we are a young team. We are in construction and we will mature and grow on the back of those disappointments.
“The attitude is positive and we’re desperate to win LaLiga. It is not won yet because we still need 16 points. When you win LaLiga you celebrate it, but that’s not the case yet. Monday is another test of how we react [after losing to Madrid] and to get three vital points.”
Barca will once again be without the injured quartet of Andreas Christensen, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele against Girona. Youngsters Marc Casado, Angel Alarcon, Estanis Pedrola and Aleix Garrido continue with the first team as a result.