Barcelona coach Xavi has given his backing to center-back Eric Garcia and says the club need to help the defender after he made a costly mistake on his return from injury in the team’s 2-2 La Liga draw against Espanyol.
Garcia came on at half-time to replace the injured Ronald Araujo but was guilty of a poor error which allowed Raul de Tomas to fire Espanyol ahead. Barca managed to level in stoppage time but will be disappointed to drop points in a match they dominated.
The defender looks set to start Barcelona’s next game in the Europa League against Napoli, as Araujo is still injured along with Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti, and Xavi backed the Spain international at his pre-match press conference.
“Eric is a center-back, for me, at a very high level. He knows he made a mistake and it cost us a goal. The disappointment is when people get injured and they can’t go out as physically into the game and we need to help him recover that element as well as his confidence because we are a bit short of center-backs right now,” he said. “He’s an important player for me in terms of the way we play, our strategy, we find space, we look to play forward to the midfielders. He’s also returning from injury, these are situations in the game we have to adapt to. He needs to return to the level that he was at because he was at a very high level before the injury and we need to get him back there.”
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Xavi Responds To Eric & Busquets Criticism
Garcia came in for criticism after the draw with Espanyol and is not the only player to have drawn scrutiny this season. Captain Sergio Busquets has also had his detractors, but Xavi says his players must get used to the critics.
“A team like Barca is always criticized, always judged,” he said. “They have to accept that. Criticism helps you improve, it helped me. They’ve got the performance, they are in shape, but players like Eric and Busi for me are very important for this game.”
Busquets is the outfield player who has enjoyed the most minutes since Xavi returned as coach and will be expected to lead the team out at the Camp Nou. The 33-year-old may be heading towards the end of his career but remains a vital player for the new manager.
Xavi Talks 100 Days in Charge of Barcelona
Xavi has celebrated 100 days as Barcelona manager in the build-up to the game and spoke about what life has been like since he made the decision to leave Qatari side Al-Sadd and head home.
“It feels like 100 years, that’s true! We’ve been through unexpected situations, injuries, Covid, the winter market, yes we’ve got through them. We are trying to work with the players. I’m very much a culer and I want Barca to get back where they should be,” he explained. “There’s work to do but we are enjoying these moments as well. We need to keep moving forwards. We have economic challenges, they make you grow as a person. We keep trying to improve. I think the game has improved in various asepcts. We are pressing higher, dominating matches. we still need to improve but we are competing and that’s important. I think we are on the right path.”
The Europa League represents Barcelona and Xavi’s only realistic chance of silverware this season. The winners of the tie with Napoli will progress to the last 16 of the competition.