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Xavi: “The Europa League is exciting, it’s a title the club hasn’t won yet”

Xavi Hernández during the press conference ahead of the Europa League game against Eintracht Frankfurt / JOSEP LAGO / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

FC Barcelona will look to continue its unbeaten run and progress to the semi-final of the Europa League by beating Eintracht Frankfurt tomorrow. Xavi Hernández and Eric García spoke to the press about the game, Gerard Piqué’s importance and the atmosphere at the Camp Nou.

Barça has been in great form lately, having lost its last game all the way back in January when the team was knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Club. After being knocked out of the group stages of the Champions League, Xavi’s men faced Napoli in the Europa League and beat them 5-3 over two games. Galatasaray was next in line and was beaten 2-1 on aggregate. Now, the next challenge awaits, as the return leg of the quarter-final against German side Eintracht Frankfurt will be played at the Camp Nou tomorrow (21:00 local time).

This is what manager Xavi Hernández had to say ahead of tomorrow’s matchup:

About what has to improve for the game against Eintracht Frankfurt:

“We have to avoid losing the ball because they know how to take advantage of it by countering us quickly. We have to minimize these counterattacks and try to defend with the ball as much as possible. We have to do more to compete, they made things difficult for us in the away game. We have to be better with the ball, they’re an opponent with clear ideas.”

“We need to be more responsible with the ball, we lost it too many times in the first leg. It’s true that the field wasn’t great, but it will be fine tomorrow. We also have to attack the open spaces. We had a very tactical training session today to improve these kinds of things.”

About the influence of playing at home:

“It’s one of the keys to the fixture to have the second leg at home. I’m sure the atmosphere and the fans won’t disappoint tomorrow. We’ll try to make them proud, we need them. It’s key that the fans are happy.”

“For Eintracht, it’s the most important match in their recent history. We have to match their intensity. The atmosphere over there surprised me. In Germany, there are some great stadiums, but I had never been to Eintracht and I was surprised.”

About the availability of Gerard Piqué, Ansu Fati, Memphis Depay and Sergiño Dest:

“It will depend on how Gerard is feeling. There’s no doubt he wants to play and be competitive. He enjoys big games like the one we have tomorrow. It depends on the level of pain, if he’s not 100% it will be difficult.”

“I continue saying the same thing about Ansu, it’s a matter of him feeling well. He has already done some great sprints in training. He’s almost doing 100% of the training sessions with the rest of the team. We don’t set deadlines, it’s up to him to tell us that he’s ready.”

“If they’re on the squad list, they can participate. This also goes for Memphis. It’s important to recover players. Dest is an important player for us because of what he brings us, both on the right and on the left side.”

About what it would mean to progress to the semi-final of the Europa League:

“It represents a step forward towards one of our objectives. Barça wanted to win the Champions League, but the circumstances mean that we’re in this situation. The Europa League makes us excited. We watched the Champions League from home last night and that should stimulate us to make it next season.”

“This is Barça. We have an obligation to win and play well. We have to be excellent in everything we do. It’s the most difficult club in the world, the most demanding. Winning while playing well is very difficult.”

About Spanish teams doing well internationally:

“What happened yesterday makes me think that La Liga is not far away in level from the Premier League. There are two Spanish teams in the semis and another one is playing today. La Liga is always competitive. Spanish teams are competing. I saw both games. Our goal for next season is to be in the Champions League. We beat Villarreal, who has proven to be a great team.”

About the rumours linking Robert Lewandowski to Barça:

“I understand the question, but this is not the time to talk about it. He’s a great player, but we have to focus on tomorrow’s game.”

About Luuk de Jong:

“I value Luuk very highly, he has been an example. He’s an exemplary professional. He doesn’t complain about anything, he always trains on one hundred per cent. It’s great to have him on the team. He’s a real asset. He has improved a lot since we arrived. It’s a privilege to have him here.”

Eric García during the press conference ahead of the Europa League game against Eintracht Frankfurt / JOSEP LAGO / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Barça defender Eric García also answered some questions:

About tomorrow’s game:

“We have improved a lot. Against Levante, we fought until the end. In Frankfurt, it was more difficult than we expected, but we’re really looking forward to it. Hopefully, the Camp Nou will be full.”

“From what we saw in the first leg and what they do in the Bundesliga, I think they’ll do something similar tomorrow. We’re ready and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

“We are obliged to win every game. Representing this club means winning every game and giving our best. Now we’re getting the results and I’m sure that tomorrow the same will happen. Tomorrow is a very important night and I hope the fans will be with us.”

“The Eintracht fans surprised me a lot, but tomorrow it will be different despite the fact that many German fans are coming. We Culés have shown who we are and tomorrow I expect no less.”

About playing with Gerard Piqué:

“He trained with the team and I hope he’ll be with us tomorrow. He’s one of the best central defenders in history and hopefully, he can help us. Everything he does for the team, both on and off the pitch, is very important.”

“I’ve always been a Barça fan and to now be able to play with him is a privilege.”

About Ronald Araújo:

“Ronald has been showing the kind of player he is for a year and a half: a beast, an animal. For Barça, he’s the perfect centre back because we can play with the last line further up the pitch. I hope he’ll renew.”

About being coached by Xavi:

“He’s giving me a lot of freedom to play the ball out from the back. Xavi is very close to the team and he advises us. Everything he’s giving us is being noticed. There’s a very hopeful future ahead.”

About whether he sees himself as an undoubted starter next season:

“I train every day to earn a place. If there’s competition, that’s great. I have to focus on myself and then the one who will decide is the coach.”