Madrid, Nov 23 (IANS) FC Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez insisted that “every game” the club plays is vital as he prepares for the Champions League clash at home to Benfica late on Tuesday, which will have a huge influence on the rest of Barca’s season.
A win for Barca against the Portuguese side, who beat them 3-0 earlier in the season, will book their place in the knockout stage of the competition, but a defeat or a draw would leave them with one foot out of the competition and having to settle for a place in the much less lucrative Europa League in the New Year.
“Every game is vital, but this is Barca and we have to compete every three days,” said Xavi, who insisted he saw the game “as an opportunity. It is a golden opportunity to qualify for the last-16 and to get revenge and to say that ‘we are Barca’.”
“We are playing at home and I like the challenge,” said the coach in his pre-game press conference, Xinhua reports. Xavi has important selection problems, as Pedri, Martin Braithwaite, Sergio Kun Aguero and Ousmane Dembele, who all missed 1-0 win over Espanyol on November 20 are still unable to start, while the young wingers, Ilias and Abde, who played at the weekend, were not included in Barca’s squad for the Champions League.
“We’ll have to see how (Sergino) Dest is, see how Ousmane and Sergi Roberto are,” said Xavi.
“We are without any pure wingers, maybe Coutinho can play or (Yusuf) Demir, so we’ll go out with who we have,” commented the coach.
“We’ll see if we are better than Benfica tomorrow; we were better than Espanyol and deserved to win by more goals, but you have to show that on the pitch. Barca aren’t at a moment where we can be overconfident, but we have to be optimistic and positive. We have to be brave and go out to attack to get the win we need to be in the last 16,” Xavi insisted.