Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has sent a strong message to the club’s supporters about Ousmane Dembele ahead of the team’s crunch La Liga clash with Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou on Sunday, February 6.
Xavi has recalled Dembele to the squad for the match, despite the forward having failed to agree a contract extension, and told a pre-match press conference he wants fans to support the attacker even though he understands they may be angry with him.
“We wanted to extend his contract,” he said. “I will understand Barca fans but we need to think about the team. We need all our fans and also they have to support Dembele if he plays. I understand people will be angry but the most important thing is the group. He is training well, he is a good professional and he’s one more player.”
Dembele was hecked by some supporters as he arrived for training, as shown by Deportes Cuatro.
The Frenchman has been left out of the last two matchday squads by Xavi and there had been speculation he could spend the rest of the season in the stands. However, the coach explained why he’s decided to bring the forward back in from the cold.
“We haven’t found a solution for Ousmane Dembele. Circumstances have changed, he has a contract. He’s a player of Barca and we have decided he’s part of the squad list,” he said. “We have to use him. He can help us. He’s been a good professional whether he’s been involved or not. So that’s the club’s decision. We will use him when I think he can be useful. He’s part of the team.”
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Xavi Names Barcelona Squad For Atletico Clash
Dembele is one of 23 players called up to the squad for the visit of the defending champions. January signings Dani Alves, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also make the list.
Xavi spoke about the prospect of taking on Atletico and highlighted the importance of the match where a win could take his side above Diego Simeone’s men and into the top four of La Liga.
“Yes tomorrow it’s another final for us. We are playing against the champions. A tough team with a fantastic manager. A team that can press up front, they defend well. It’s a final, a tough game, but we are at home in front of our fans for the first time in a month and a half,” he added. “We want to show that we have trained well, that we have good feelings and that we want to compete. For us these three points are vital. It’s almost a six-point game because if we win we will go fourth. So yes it’s a final and we are motivated.”
Debuts For Aubameyang & Adama?
Barcelona fans will be hoping to see new signings Aubameyang and Adama make their debuts but Xavi was giving little away about his team selection. However, he did offer an update on how players had been looking in training ahead of the match.
“Both of them have trained well, probably Adama is in better shape. Auba suffered Covid-19 and has been working individually,” he said. “Tomorrow we’ll decide but they are both available. They are excited and we want to see them in the squad.”
Xavi’s teamsheet for the match will certainly make for interesting reading with Dembele hoping for a recall to the starting XI but facing increased competition for a place after Barca brought in three attackers during the January window.