Cesc Fabregas says even Barcelona’s players cannot explain the difference in performance in just four days from the limp La Liga defeat at Real Valladolid to the authoritative Champions League win over Manchester City.
• Tomas: Back to business
Barca were awful when losing 1-0 against the relegation-threatened Castille side last Saturday, slipping four points adrift of league leaders Real Madrid, and bringing down a rain of criticism from Blaugrana fans and pundits.
But the following Wednesday, the Catalan club were outstanding for long periods as they outclassed City 2-1 at the Camp Nou, and progressed to the Champions League quarterfinals by a comprehensive aggregate score of 4-1.
And Fabregas, 26, told RAC 1 that Barca’s display against Valladolid was still hard for him to get his head around.
“It is so difficult to explain this change of image,” Fabregas said. “I do not know if there is an explanation. It is not good, not for the fans or for us that it can change so much in four days, with such great discipline against City and that you play so bad and with such little motivation as we showed in Valladolid. That image was not appropriate for a player wearing a Barca jersey. I hope the game against City will be a point of departure and that from now all will be positive.”
The difference in the performances of Messi in the two games was also striking, with the Argentina international a pale shadow of his usual self at Valladolid, then putting in a match-winning performance against City.
Barca need their talisman at his best if they are to find success in La Liga, Europe and in the upcoming Copa del Rey final against Madrid, Fabregas said.
“[Messi] is the natural leader of this team and we need to be guided by him,” he said. “We need to get the best out of Messi so that this time we can aspire to win everything.”
The Spain international refused to reveal who he would like Barca to be drawn against next in the Champions League.
“To avoid Madrid and Bayern [Munich]?” he said. “Yes, but there is also Chelsea, Pars Saint-Germain have made a leap in quality. Any rival now is difficult.”
Looking further down the line, Fabregas again denied that he sees himself as the long-term replacement for Xavi Hernandez at both club and international level.
“I do not see myself doing Xavi’s job because he is unique,” he said. “There will be no more, no matter how hard you search, because there is just one Xavi. Whoever takes his place will have to be very strong mentally, and the team and the fans will have to get used to playing a little bit differently. The day that Xavi is not there Barca will have to be a little bit different, I do not know if better or worse, but different for sure.”