Barcelona have travelled to England as they get set to take on Manchester United in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League knockout playoffs.
The first leg at Camp Nou last week ended in a 2-2 draw, with the two teams playing a hugely entertaining, end-to-end affair. More of the same could be on the cards at Old Trafford tomorrow with a spot in the Round of 16 of the tournament on the line.
Ahead of the game, Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez interacted with the media and touched upon several aspects regarding his team. Excerpts from the 43-year-old’s press conference are as follows.
On facing Manchester United at Old Trafford: “It will be a great game, the stadium is marvelous, the atmosphere. Both teams are in great form, we are talking about an opponent that is one of the best in Europe at the moment and we hope to give our best.”
“Manchester United have mentality, pace, passion, they showed it at Camp Nou and we have to match them. We have to have personality and a lot of intensity, as well as the mentality to beat a big team in Europe. It’s a perfect scenario.”
On whether the second leg will be similar to the first: “I think so, it will be similar. They will press more because of the atmosphere, it will be one of the best games you can see in Europe.”
On his starting XI for the game: “I have the idea, and the approach will be the same if we play with three or four midfielders. We are motivated, I think we can play a great game. We have every chance of winning. Tomorrow will be a test.”
On having made his UCL debut as a player against United: “I was nervous on the touchline with Van Gaal. Beckham scored. We drew, but we had chances to win.”
On the key absences for the game: “We’re missing Pedri and Gavi, but I would highlight the absence of Dembele for everything he gives us. Pedri gives us rhythm, Gavi gives us the intensity that would be necessary tomorrow.”
“There are alternatives to compensate for Pedri and Gavi’s absences, we have to bring order, intensity…”
On Ronald Araujo: “I’ve tried to get him to take risks, it’s not his main quality. When you dominate a situation, it gives you an amount of uncertainty. We always want to play in the opposition half, if you see how he passes the ball, changes of direction, he has improved a lot.”
On Sergi Roberto: “I like to have Sergi Roberto in the team, he plays everywhere, he is a guarantee and tomorrow he will surely be important.”
On the possibility of extra time and penalties: “All scenarios are possible for tomorrow’s game. Extra time, penalties, our idea won’t change. Attack, be protagonists, press them. Don’t let them feel comfortable. They showed passion at Camp Nou and we have to match it tomorrow.”
On the confidence within the team: “Tomorrow we will see if we have changed. We cannot say that we have changed. We haven’t been up to the task in the Champions League, we’re in the Europa League. We can’t say ‘we’re back’… Tomorrow we have to test ourselves and prove it on the pitch.”
We are in a good moment, with confidence, leaders in the league, we won a title. But it’s another test, another competition. We have to have a lot of mentality.”
On the keys to win at Old Trafford: “Intensity, duels, having personality. Play without complexes, forget about what has happened in recent years in Europe.”
On the possible return of Lionel Messi: “For Messi, this is his home, he has the doors open. He is a friend and we are in permanent contact. His return depends on him.”