Barcelona boss Xavi bizarrely claims Real Madrid are CLEAR favourites in Copa del Rey semi-final tie
- Madrid set to host Barcelona
- Xavi claims Madrid are favourites
- Barcelona set to miss key players
WHAT HAPPENED? The Blaugrana head into the first leg of the Copa clash after successive defeats against Manchester United and Almeria in the Europa League and La Liga respectively. They will also miss key players like Robert Lewandowski, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele with injuries, which is a cause for concern for Xavi. Barca are seven points clear of Real in La Liga at the moment, but the Spanish head coach insisted that his side are the underdogs in his pre-match press conference.
WHAT THEY SAID: When Xavi was pressed to answer who are the favourites in the tie, he replied: "We are playing for a title, Madrid are still the favourites because they are the champions of La Liga and the Champions League. They are a very difficult opponent and they are in a good moment. Madrid are favourites. My argument is that Madrid have won the last few titles and we are in the process of building: we have won one title and against them, playing extraordinary football. But it’s Madrid, they are competing, they beat Liverpool and we have to be honest."
He added ahead of Barca's trip to Santiago Bernabeu: “They are a very tough opponent, they don’t dominate in many moments but they have those mini phases where they dominate you and in a transition, they get in your goal. They are a very difficult opponent on their home pitch."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Xavi remains adamant that Barca's recent losses will not affect the mentality of the players and insists they will go to the Bernabeu to win, even though the circumstances are not ideal. The Catalan club did get the better of their rivals in the Spanish Super Cup final last month, winning 3-1 in Saudi Arabia, and Xavi expects his team to show their "personality" once again.
"Fear gives us negative things, we have to think positively. We have competed well so far," he added. "We will compete face-to-face. We will show our football model and personality. We are fine. From within we analyse the reasons for the defeat, and it is a football issue. Each game is its own story. Our intention is to always go out to win, being protagonists with the ball. We wouldn’t be happy with a defeat."
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WHAT NEXT FOR BARCELONA? Xavi will lead his troops against Madrid on Thursday evening in the Copa del Rey with the aim of taking an advantage back to Camp Nou for the second leg on April 5.