Barcelona boss Xavi blasts state of LaLiga pitches

Xavi Hernandez called for better regulations of playing surfaces after he was criticised for complaining about the state of Getafe‘s pitch last weekend.

Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, with Xavi moaning after the game about the dry, long grass not being helped by playing in the afternoon sun.

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The Barca coach has regularly criticised pitches which are not conducive to a passing game and insists he will continue to do so regardless of how much others mock him.

“I am criticised for everything,” Xavi said in a news conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Atletico Madrid. “It does not annoy me at all. No matter how many memes they make about me, I won’t keep quiet.

“A dry pitch does not benefit us. It is a question for [Getafe coach Quique] Sanchez Flores: Why not water the pitch? Why have the grass longer than usual?

“I won’t stop until there is a rule in place for playing surfaces. There is in other sports. In golf, if the grass is long, they cut it. If Lebron [James] has a wet court, they dry it. If it rains in tennis, they stop.

“And [in football] we could make puddles, but who does that benefit? I won’t keep quiet. It’s no wonder younger fans don’t watch entire games. If we want to put on a show, we have to take care of the sport.”

Barca’s draw against Getafe was their second successive stalemate in LaLiga and their third winless game in a row in all competitions, but Xavi said the result was not important.

“We could have drawn [with a better pitch], it’s not about how the game ended, I also say it when we win,” he added.

Barca remain 11 points clear at the top of LaLiga with just nine games to play, but, after back-to-back draws, Xavi wants to see a reaction from his players against Atletico at Camp Nou on Sunday as they close in on a first league title since 2019.

“We have not won our last two league games so we are extra motivated for this one,” Xavi said. “LaLiga is at stake. We have to say: ‘We are here.’ We have to show our identity.

“We have not been at the level we want for a few matches, so the message is clear. We must be recognisable, return to our roots, lose fewer balls, generate more in attack and play with a high defensive line.”

Atletico are the form team in LaLiga. They are unbeaten in 13 matches since losing to Barca in January, winning their last six, and have climbed to third in the table, just two points behind Real Madrid.

“They are a team with a lot of personality,” Xavi said. “It’s great to see how [coach Diego Simeone] imposes that on them. They have returned to form in recent weeks when no one expected it, competing with a lot of soul. It makes them dangerous.”

Midfielders Pedri and Frenkie de Jong are both fit to feature against Atletico following spells on the sidelines, but Ousmane Dembele is not yet ready to return.

Xavi has also called up 15-year-old Lamine Yamal, who could become the youngest player to ever play for Barca in the league if he plays.

“He has a lot of talent even if he is only 15,” Xavi said. “He has character, talent, is good one-on-one. He is strong. He is someone that could mark an era at this club.”

Meanwhile, speaking in his prematch news conference on Saturday, Simeone backed his opposite number.

Barca’s improved defensive record in LaLiga — conceding just nine goals in 29 games this season — and the fact that nine of their league wins have ended in a 1-0 scoreline have led some to criticise Xavi’s team’s style of play.

“I like this Barcelona a lot,” Simeone said. “They’ve grown hugely since Xavi arrived … They’ve grown game by game and they’re having a great season in the league.

“They’ve improved in defence and that’s a plus for a style of play which will always be attacking, because Barcelona have always had that style historically, with the characteristics of the players they’ve had.

“Improving the defensive side — with players who have attacking characteristics — adds value to the work that Xavi is doing.”

Simeone has never won a league match at Camp Nou in his 11 years as Atletico coach.

“Barcelona in all these years have had great squads and great teams,” he said. “It’s been hard for us, as the statistics show, to be able to win. But we’ve always competed well.”

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