Barcelona boss Xavi has warned his players that Thursday’s Europa League match in Naples will show his side’s progress.
The Catalan giants could only draw 1-1 at home in the first leg against Napoli a week ago as Ferran Torres netted a 59th minute equaliser from the spot. Blaugrana hit back to win 4-1 in Valencia on Sunday as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hattrick. Napoli have drawn successive Serie A matches as their title challenge takes a slight dip. The winner of Thursday’s tie will progress to the last 16.
Xavi said in his pre-match press conference as carried by Marca: “Barcelona has been great when we have had a specific style of play and it has lost a bit. We are on the way to recover it. It is a litmus test to see if we can, a revalidation for us.
“If you let me choose, I prefer to play well and win. Many times, the consequence of having good football is to get a good score. It would be a big disappointment to be eliminated.
“If we are at the level of Barcelona that we are seeing lately, we have many options. It will be difficult for us to control the ball. It will be a football war and whoever has the ball will win.
“The atmosphere in their stadium will be intense. It’s an honour to play in this stadium. He was a footballer who moved us all, he was a reference for everyone in the world. We keep watching videos of Maradona and we keep getting excited.”
Ter Stegen: Media throw gasoline on the fire
Meanwhile, Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen has defended his recent performances amid criticism from the Spanish press.
“I don’t give much importance to what I read,” Ter Stegen said. “People can give their opinion. I always analyse the games, what I do well and what I don’t.
“You always have to work to get back to the maximum and that’s what I’m doing. Every training session I do is to be in the best conditions.
“In recent weeks, I’m sure some of you (the media) have thrown some gasoline on the fire because you like it, this is how it is, I’m sorry. But I’m calm with my performance. There are many things that I’m doing well and others in which I can improve.”
The German goalkeeper went on to speak about the Napoli second leg on Thursday night and the possibility of penalties.
“Penalties are details, I will analyse everything perfectly tonight,” Ter Stegen said. “We have people who know how to take them and I will try to stop everything that reaches the goal. We want to win in 90 minutes, but we are prepared for everything.”
“LaLiga and the Europa League are two different competitions. Napoli are a great rival. The victory against Valencia gives us peace of mind, but this doesn’t mean anything.”