Xavi expects exciting clash as Barcelona take on surprise package Girona

By Sports Desk December 09, 2023

Barcelona will aim to close the gap to the top two in LaLiga when they take on neighbours Girona on Sunday.

Barca are not just four points behind big rivals Real Madrid but also their fellow Catalans, who have been the surprise package of the season so far under head coach Michel.

But Xavi’s men go into the clash boosted by last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid, with Joao Felix scoring the only goal against his parent club.

Xavi told reporters: “It will be a great match. Michel is a great coach and has a philosophy similar to ours. They want the ball and are very dynamic.

“We are looking at the game through several different scenarios because it can play out in different ways. I don’t know which Girona we’ll see, but we’re looking for the win.”

Barca have some injury problems, with Gavi out for the season and now joined on the sidelines by goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and defender Inigo Martinez.

Ter Stegen has sat out the last three games with a lower back problem and has now undergone surgery to correct the issue while Martinez suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up ahead of the Atletico game.

Fellow defender Ronald Araujo is set to play in a mask after suffering a fractured jaw in an accidental clash with the boot of Atletico’s Marcos Llorente.

“It’s a part of competing,” said Xavi. “Every year we talk about injuries but, yes, we are having bad luck. It’s because of the schedule and the demand it puts on the players.”

Girona have won all but three of their LaLiga matches so far, with their only defeat coming against Real Madrid, and defender Daley Blind insisted all the pressure is on Barcelona.

The former Manchester United and Ajax player told ESPN: “We don’t want to put pressure on ourselves to aim at something. Of course you talk in the dressing room to be as high as possible, that is what you want.

“I think if we continue like this, this already is a special season, but it can be something special as well at the end of the season.

“I think Girona is still a small club which is building, we are in a good build-up now. We take it game by game and the pressure is not on us.

“Barca are a great team, they have some great individual players. It will be a very difficult game, but these are the games you want to play as a kid against those teams.”

Blind’s sentiments were echoed by boss Michel, who said: “We’re going to enjoy our game. Our league is not Madrid, Barca and Atletico. We just want to keep this successful run going as long as possible.”

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