Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez wants his team to make a statement at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Sunday, when they face LaLiga leaders and bitter rivals Real Madrid in a much-anticipated Clasico.
The former Spain midfielder thinks the game is the perfect situation to show what Barca can do, after recovering from a difficult start to the season.
”It’s a litmus test to show how far we’ve come,” Xavi told a news conference on Saturday, adding that there was no need for any extra motivation when facing their fierce rivals.
”It is a spectacular setting to play a great game and show that we are in great form. We have grown as a team. We have to show personality and try to impose our game model.”
Both Real and Barca are on four-game winning streaks and are playing with a lot of confidence. But Real, with 66 points from 28 games, have a 10-point advantage over second-placed Sevilla and are 15 ahead of Barca in third.
With 11 matches to play, Xavi thinks making a late run for the title looks ”remote, complicated and difficult”. But Sunday’s encounter will give him a chance to see how much his team have progressed since his arrival in mid-November.
”If we have to label a team as a favourite, it is Real Madrid, they are the leaders and in a great moment, but we are also going through a great momentum,” Xavi said.
”It is a great opportunity to change history and a win would greatly support what we are working on. We have to be brave, try to impose our style, and be calm.”
Barca had fallen to ninth in the table when Ronald Koeman was fired, but Xavi has revitalised them and they are unbeaten since their extra-time defeat by Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey on Jan. 20, having scored 20 goals in their last six league games.
They will face a Real team that will be missing their star striker and LaLiga’s top scorer, Karim Benzema, who is recovering from a calf injury.
”Benzema has been playing for two or three years as one of the best forwards in the world. He is a very important loss for them but for us it doesn’t change anything,” Xavi said.