Spain

Xavi Hernandez highlights squad depth and team identity after Barcelona go top

After a blip in midweek against Bayern Munich, Barcelona got back on track before the international break with a 3-0 victory over Elche. Following a sending off after just 15 minutes, Gonzalo Verdu hauling down Robert Lewandowski, it turned out to be something of a comfortable win.

Manager Xavi Hernandez told Marca that he was not entirely content with the amount of balls they lost in the first period, but did admit that it turned into a more “placid” game than originally anticipated.

He also highlighted that he was pleased with the depth of the squad, following five changes to the starting line-up against Elche.

“We are a deep squad, in which everyone trains well. Everyone is prepared and focused when the team needs them and that is the important thing. Regardless of who plays, you don’t notice it. It is an atypical year with the strained calendar, we don’t rest during some weeks, and we need everyone.”

“It strengthens the group. Regardless of who plays, the team makes the cut. We have to choose, there are a lot of options and ultimately, squads win titles, not a starting XI.”

Barcelona’s first goal also involved a pleasing phase of interplay between Ousmane Dembele, Pedri, Alejandro Balde and Robert Lewandowski, sweeping from one side of the pitch to the other.

“We have a very clear idea of play, being protagonists with the ball. We know the pressure and demands here in this club. The team has improved since we arrived in November. But Barcelona is a big test. You have to continue to be humble and keep working, being a team and a family.”

As always with Barcelona or Real Madrid, keeping a lid on expectations is a tricky part of the job. Whether it be positivity or negativity, things can quickly spiral out of control, setting the team up for a fall.