Xavi hints injured stars could return for Clasico

AFP , Friday 27 Oct 2023

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said he could start some key players against Real Madrid on Saturday who have been out injured in recent weeks, if they arrive 100 percent fit.

Barcelona s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski was back in training for the first time since his injury and could feature against Real Madrid. AFP


The Spanish champions have been without forwards Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, midfielders Pedri and Frenkie de Jong and defenders Jules Kounde and Sergi Roberto in the lead-up to the match.

However all those players took part in training on Friday except for the latter, with Xavi saying he was surprised by their recoveries and determination to play against Real Madrid.

"I was surprised to see them in training too," Xavi told reporters on Friday.

"Players that we had almost ruled out and they want to be there, they all want to play.

"They all feel very good and you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the squad list."

Barcelona's only out-and-out striker Lewandowski has not played since going off injured against Porto in the Champions League on October 4 with an ankle problem.

"Evidently I won't tell you the line-up or give clues, (but he's) feeling very good, he's well," said the coach.

"They all feel good and want to be there -- it's a very important game."

De Jong last played in September before he suffered an ankle sprain, while a hamstring injury has ruled Pedri out since August.

Winger Raphinha has been out with a thigh problem since September, while Kounde suffered a knee sprain against Granada on October 10.

Xavi said he would have no hesitance to start any of the returning players if they are fully fit.

"If they are 100 percent, I'll play them, there's no problem," added the coach.

Barcelona have been forced to lean heavily on youngsters from their La Masia youth academy, with Fermin Lopez, Lamine Yamal and Marc Guiu all scoring important goals.

Xavi had some advice for the younger players who may feature against league leaders Real Madrid.

"Having homegrown players is a boost, it's fantastic to have players from La Masia, they know about the rivalry, they know the importance of the game, it's always fundamental," said Xavi.

"(In the Clasico) there are always more nerves, more tension, controlling those nerves, controlling your character, the tempo of the game, it's hard, because the heart is hot, but (you need) a cold head, I think that's the key to these games.

"There is more emotion and desire than normal, but control is key."

The coach noted Jude Bellingham's impressive impact since arriving at Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund this summer.

The England international has netted eight goals and is the division's leading scorer.

"Bellingham is very important for Madrid with their change of system, he has freedom, and attacks well from deep," added Xavi.

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