Club legend Xavi Hernandez will make his debut as FC Barcelona manager on Saturday against the local rivals Espanyol at the Camp Nou.
The former midfielder only had a limited squad to prepare for the match as many of the first team stars were busy with their international teams. Xavi has been busy solving Barca’s long standing off-field problems since his arrival as a head coach from Qatari side Al-Sadd.
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Establishing his authority on the squad, he also laid down many changes in the dressing room culture with new rules such as limitation on ‘off-field’ activities of the players.
In his first ever pre-game press conference as a Barca head coach, Xavi said that he has tried to implant his ideas on the players who had stayed here and had a look at Espanyol. He also admitted that he had not got many days to work together, but many players already knew his way of thinking, reported Xinhua.
"We have to show sacrifice and the talent will shine through, we have to be a team together and our home ground has to be our fortress," he added.
Xavi promised "aggressive" football with "high pressing" during his presentation as Barca coach, but his options on Saturday are still limited by Barca's long injury list.
Pedri, Ousmane Dembele, Martin Braithwaite and Ansu Fati are all certain to miss out and Kun Aguero is also not available as he continues with tests over a possible heart condition. Meanwhile Sergi Roberto, Nico Gonzalez, Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia all have a question mark over their fitness ahead of Saturday, although some may play.
Dani Alves is unlikely to make the side as the veteran right-back needs to pick up match fitness after his surprise return to the club. However, even though Alves won't play, his arrival seems to highlight the upturn in atmosphere surrounding the club since Koeman's departure.
Young defender Oscar Mingueza, who was given his debut by the Dutch coach, commented this week that Koeman had lost the confidence of the dressing room and it's clear he had lost the support of the fans, who have struggled to half-fill the Camp Nou Stadium this season, despite the lowering of coronavirus restrictions.
"We have to control our emotions. It is a derby and there will be tension and nerves. I have told the players we have to compete and control the situations of the game. There are a lot of details, but we want to start well," explained Xavi, who also made a call for the fans to get behind the team.
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The ground will be much closer to full on Saturday night as Barca fans hope to see their season start turning around, although Barca will have to keep an eye on Espanyol striker Raul de Tomas, who is the top-scoring Spaniard in LaLiga with seven goals.
Wu Lei will also hope to get the chance to play after celebrating his 30th birthday on Friday.