Nigerian News Update:
Xavi Hernandez said on Friday Barcelona must convert the positivity around his arrival into results, as he prepares for his first match in charge against local rivals Espanyol this weekend.
Barca is ninth in La Liga ahead of Saturday’s game at Camp Nou, when a bumper crowd is expected to welcome Xavi home.
The 41-year-old played 767 times for the club and is widely regarded as one of their greatest ever players.
Xavi has a formidable task ahead of him as a coach, with Barcelona adrift of the top four, let alone La Liga’s title race. The hope is that his appointment can kickstart a recovery.
Newly-appointed FC Barcelona’s Spanish coach Xavi gestures as he leaves after addressing a press conference in Barcelona on November 19, 2021, on the eve of their Spanish Liga football match against RCD Espanyol. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
“What I’ve seen in training I’ve liked,” said Xavi in a press conference.
“We have the players and we will also need the fans. The club has to translate this positivity that exists at the moment into results, starting from tomorrow.”
The majority of Barca’s players only returned from international duty this week but others like Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti and Sergino Dest have been able to begin regular sessions with their new coach.
“We have tried with the players who have stayed during the break to implement our idea and to analyse Espanyol,” Xavi said.
“We have not had many days to work together but a lot of the players already know our plans.”
Xavi said “there may be some surprises” in his first starting line-up although he was optimistic about the squad, in a notable contrast to the more pessimistic assessments of his predecessor Ronald Koeman.
Asked what had surprised him most so far, Xavi said: “The talent in the team.” He added: “I’ve seen tremendous commitment. I like what I’ve seen.”
Barcelona also welcomed Dani Alves back to the club this week after signing the 38-year-old on a free transfer.
Alves, who won six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues with Barca, cannot play until January.
“He will improve us in all ways,” Xavi said of his former teammate.
“He is a winner, he has character. We have watched him play and he’s in good shape physically. And he’s a spectacular footballer, one of the best I’ve seen in my career.”
Xavi also had words of encouragement for Philippe Coutinho, who could be among those sold to raise funds for transfers in January.
“He has to regain confidence,” said Xavi.
“We have spoken with him and he has to be important. He is a footballer with natural talent, he can score goals. Philippe will have opportunities for sure because he is a footballer that I like.”