Xavi Hernandez said Barcelona is the « most difficult club in the world » because of the demands on his team to win while playing good football.
Barca face Eintracht Frankfurt in the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal at Camp Nou on Thursday after a 1-1 draw in Germany last week.
Xavi, who has taken Barca from ninth in LaLiga to second since replacing Ronald Koeman in November, has warned his players that a scrappy win is never enough, even if it does seal a place in the last four.
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« We are obliged to win and play well, » the Barcelona coach said in a news conference on Wednesday. « This is Barca. A 1-0 in the 90th minute is not enough, we know this.
« For those that know the club, it’s about excellence in everything we do. That’s why this is the most difficult club in the world. There is no comparison. There is no other club in the world like this, [with that] demand to win playing well. It is very difficult. »
Those demands have made Barca’s descent, culminating with them dropping out of the Champions League into the Europa League this season, even harder to take for supporters of the club.
Meanwhile, they had to watch on as their rivals Real Madrid beat Chelsea after extra time on Tuesday to reach the semifinal of the Champions League, a competition Los Blancos have won three times since Barca’s last European trophy in 2015.
However, Xavi said Madrid’s success has no influence on the Catalan club.
« Our history demands [that we play well and win], » he added. « We don’t look at Madrid to make demands of ourselves. Since Cruyff arrived 40 years ago, the bar was set at winning playing well.
« If not, we’re not happy. That’s how the Catalans are. I don’t know about Madrid. They are a spectacular opponent with a competitive gene. Their spirit is to be admired but it has nothing to do with Barca. They are different stories. »
United States right-back Sergino Dest and Netherlands forward Memphis Depay have been passed fit to feature against Frankfurt, but centre-back Gerard Pique remains a doubt despite being named in the squad.
Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati remain sidelined, although Ansu is nearing a return after three months out with a hamstring problem.
Xavi added that Barca must « improve » in many areas from last week’s first leg and « not give away as many unnecessary balls, » but said he was grateful the game would be played on the Camp Nou pitch having been critical of the playing surface in Frankfurt.
The winners of Thursday’s game will meet either West Ham United or Lyon in the semifinal later this month, with the final scheduled to take place in Sevilla on May 18.
« It wasn’t our objective at the start of the season, but this is the situation and it is now, » Xavi said. « It is another competition, not as valued as the Champions League, but the players are up for it and motivated.
« I’ve said many times we would like to be in the Champions League and we are working hard to return. I watched the games at home this week and it hurts, but [winning the Europa League] would be a step forward and a sign that we can compete in Europe. »