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Opinion

Xavi Hernandez demands Barca defensive improvement

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez called on his team to improve defensively in 2024 after a shaky start to the season.

The Spanish champions are fourth ahead of Thursday’s visit to face Las Palmas, seven points behind leaders Real Madrid and Girona.

Barca won La Liga thanks to their excellent defensive displays last season, conceding only 20 goals in 38 league matches, but have already shipped 21 in 18 games in this campaign.

“I’m more worried about the defensive area (than the attack),” Xavi told a news conference Wednesday.

“Last year we were extraordinary in defence and this year we are giving too much away.”

Before the winter break Xavi was critical of his team for missing big chances, but they were also easily carved open by opponents, including in a 4-2 home defeat by Girona and 2-2 draws at Mallorca and Granada.

“It’s true that we’re lacking efficiency (up front), but even scoring two or three goals sometimes we aren’t winning, against Granada, Mallorca, Girona,” continued Xavi.

The coach is hopeful new arrival Vitor Roque would be registered in time to face Las Palmas.

Barcelona agreed a deal to sign the 18-year-old Brazilian striker in July with Athletic Paranaense and he arrived in the winter window.

“He will be in the squad list, we hope he’s available, it’s a question of hours,” said Xavi.

La Liga clubs must meet the league’s stringent financial fair play rules to register signings to play.

“(Roque) is well, he’s got a lot of desire and he has adapted quickly to the group and the training sessions, but we’ll go carefully,” added Xavi.

Las Palmas coach Francisco Garcia Pimienta formerly coached Barcelona’s reserve side and said the reunion with the Catalans would be a “special” occasion for him.

“It’s a special game, I was there for many years,” he told reporters.

“I don’t know how I will feel, but we are preparing for it in exactly the same way we prepare for the rest of the games.”

Garcia Pimienta was sacked from his previous role by Barcelona president Joan Laporta in June 2021 and was diplomatic when asked about their relationship.

“I have not had contact with him since, but I thank him because I am here because of his decision,” said the coach.

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