Xavi Hernandez says that scoring first is the key for Barcelona in Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg at Atletico Madrid.
The tie is neatly balanced after last week’s first leg in Barcelona, in which Atletico went ahead via a long-range opener from Diego Ribas, before Neymar equalised late on for Barca.
That was the fourth draw from four meetings between the teams this season, and Atletico’s away goal means a third goalless draw of the campaign would see Barcelona eliminated.
The Catalan playmaker told a news conference on Monday -- covered by Mundo Deportivo -- that his team would look to attack and get ahead at the Calderon, forcing Atletico to then finally have to come out and play some football.
“We would like to have got a more favourable result,” Xavi said. “A 1-1 draw is not so good, but we will go there full of motivation and spirit to go and win the game. We are a team made to attack and score goals, and are up against a team which is just the opposite. We must try and get ahead on the scoreboard. We have not done that in any of the four games. We would see then how they react. That could be key to the game.”
Xavi admitted Barca were now facing into what was a vital week for the season, with a La Liga game at relegation-threatened Granada on Saturday, and then the Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid the next Wednesday.
“This game is vital because we could find ourselves out of the Champions League,” he said. “Then we have the game against Granada, who also have a lot to play for. Then the Copa final is just around the corner. These are six or seven decisive days for the season.”
Barca’s cause has again not been helped by off-field controversy in recent days, with news breaking that FIFA had imposed a transfer ban on the club due to youth-transfer rules being broken.
Xavi followed the line set by Blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu and said it was unfair for anyone to criticise the treatment of young players at Barca’s La Masia academy.
“From the dressing-room we believe that the FIFA ban is disproportionate,” he said. “We could do little else. The club is taking all legal measures, and we hope this ends in nothing. La Masia does absolutely correct work in all senses, and we will try and do everything to defend it. We have cases like Leo [Messi] or Andres [Iniesta] who have come from outside. Here the kids are looked after well.”
At Atletico the concerns are all about top scorer Diego Costa, who limped out of the first leg with a thigh strain, and is now a big doubt for the return game. Arda Turan also missed Atletico’s 1-0 La Liga win over Villarreal on Saturday with a groin problem, but is considered more likely to be back for Wednesday.
Rarely used Colchonero forward Adrian Lopez claimed in AS, after making only a second appearance in two months as a substitute against Villarreal, that his side had the squad to cover any absences.
“If we are lacking important players then the team must all fight together to win and go through in the tie,” Adrian said. “If they are not there, then other teammates go out onto the pitch to help. The most important thing is the team is at its best to win the game.”