Barcelona coach Xavi has offered an update on teenage striker Ansu Fati ahead of key games against Real Betis in La Liga and Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Xavi told a pre-match press conference ahead of Barcelona’s La Liga clash with Real Betis on Saturday, December 4 that he gets “emotional” seeing how hard the youngster is working in a bid to return to first-team action.
“Ansu is doing a tremendous effort to be back with the team and it makes me emotional to see how hard he works,” he said. “We know the importance of that game but I hope and I want him to be comfortable. We know that these next matches are important for us. Until he’s 100% he won’t be back with the team. I’m not going to force any players. We did that in the past and we lost them. When he’s 100% he’ll be back with the team.”
Fati will not play against Real Betis and looks unlikely to feature against Bayern Munich either. President Joan Laporta told TV3 that the game is likely to come too soon for the striker, as reported by journalist Toni Juanmarti.
“He wanted to play but the doctors have told me that it is very difficult,” he said. “You have to protect the player so that he does not relapse and spend more time out.”
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Xavi Previews Real Betis Clash
Xavi also spoke about Barcelona’s next game and the importance of taking all three points against Los Verdiblancos. Manuel Pellegrini’s side head into the match four points ahead of the Catalan giants in the table but have played one game more.
The Barcelona boss admits it’s vital that his team keep on picking victories and moving up the table after a disappointing start to the 2021-22 campaign.
“We know tomorrow is a vital game with three important points. We still have that urgency and many points to recuperate with those teams ahead of us. We can’t lose anymore,” he said. “So we know it’s a difficult moment, that this is a direct rival of ours, they are above us in the standings by four points with one game less. It’s a vital game for us to get the three points, to play well, and to continue to grow.”
Barcelona have won both La Liga games since Xavi replaced Koeman at the help, beating Espanyol 1-0 and running out 3-1 victors over Villarreal last time out.
Xavi Praises Frenkie de Jong
Midfielder Frenkie de Jong was on target in the win over Villarreal, netting his first goal of the season, and came in for praise from Xavi for his performance. There have been rumors De Jong could be offloaded to raise funds, but Xavi insists he is not for sale.
“For me he’s a very important player for this team and not on the transfer list. The other day he played a great game. He gave that final pass, he was comfortable in his position,” he explained. “What we were looking for that day against Villarreal was Pau Torres would be more focused on Frenkie which is why we changed his position. We managed to do that, he even scored a goal, he between the defensive line a lot, he made 2-3 excellent passes towards goal and that’s the Frenkie we want. He was excellent.”
De Jong looks certain to continue in the starting XI against Real Betis alongside captain Sergio Busquets, while teenagers Nico Gonzalez and Gavi will also be hoping for more first-team minutes after impressing so far this season.