'No friendlies' for Barcelona, says Xavi, as coach sidesteps Kounde questions

By Sports Desk July 24, 2022

Barcelona boss Xavi has claimed there are "no friendlies" for the Blaugrana, while sidestepping questions over a potential move for Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

The Catalan club continued their pre-season preparations in the United States with a 1-0 victory in an overseas iteration of El Clasico against Real Madrid, thanks to a glorious strike from new recruit Raphinha in Las Vegas.

With Robert Lewandowski handed a club debut, the future continues to look rosy for Barca as they seek to reverse two years of diminishing gains with a high-risk transfer policy to reclaim their crown in La Liga.

Part of that process comes down to a mental belief that every game is there to be won, per their coach, who says that even pre-season tests cannot be interpreted as kick-about games.

"There are no friendlies at Barcelona," Xavi stated after his side triumphed over their rivals. "[We want to] win titles again. Everyone starts from scratch - we don't go by your name."

Asked about Kounde - who looks set to move to Chelsea amid talk of Barca hijacking the transfer - the Spaniard sidestepped a direct answer, merely adding: "We are trying to strengthen all the positions."

Xavi was happier to wax lyrical about Raphinha and Lewandowski, with the two attacking talents the most significant fruits of Barca's transfer dealings, having arrived from Leeds and Bayern Munich respectively.

"[Raphinha] makes a difference," he added. "He's dynamic on the wings. Robert is a world-class star who has adapted very quickly. They'll give competition to the rest of the squad - they'll have to wake up soon."

Barcelona continue their pre-season campaign with another heavyweight European clash against Juventus in Dallas on Tuesday, before wrapping up their American tour against New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

Related items

  • Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board

    Bayern Munich have confirmed the appointment of former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to the club’s board.

    The 50-year-old – who came through the Bayern youth ranks and made one senior appearance – will start his new role with the Bundesliga champions on March 1 and has signed a contract until June 2027.

    Former Germany Under-21 defender Eberl went on to have spells at Bochum and Greuther Furth before signing with Borussia Monchengladbach, where he later moved into coaching and then became director of sport.

    Eberl moved to a similar position at RB Leipzig in December 2022, but was relieved of his duties at the club just nine months later.

    “I spent my entire childhood and youth at FC Bayern and in Munich, so it’s something special for me to return in a new role to the club where it all began,” Eberl said on the Bayern Munich website.

    “The job as board member for sport is a great challenge, which I will approach with a lot of respect and humility, but with even more anticipation.

    “Together with everyone here, I want to do everything I can to ensure that FC Bayern continues to be successful in the future and brings joy to its fans.”

    Bayern announced the club’s executive board would consist of three positions from July 1 – a chief executive, a chief financial and sales officer as well as a board member for sport, which will be Eberl’s role.

  • Talking points ahead of the FA Cup fifth-round action Talking points ahead of the FA Cup fifth-round action

    The midweek FA Cup fifth round fixtures will give several Premier League clubs the opportunity to make up for significant setbacks over the weekend.

    Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag cannot afford another defeat after Saturday’s late drama against Fulham, while Chelsea must respond to Sunday’s Carabao Cup loss to Liverpool.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at the talking points around the key fixtures.

    United need a response

    Saturday’s stoppage-time home defeat to Fulham has put Manchester United under pressure going into Wednesday’s trip to Nottingham Forest. With a trip to the Etihad up next on Sunday, United need a positive result to avoid going into a derby amid another round of crisis talks at Old Trafford. With Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s buy-in now complete and an overhaul of football operations under way, the pressure on Erik ten Hag will only ramp up, and he cannot afford to see their only remaining hope of silverware this season come to an end.

    Liverpool to clear their hangovers

    There were emotional celebrations for Liverpool and their outgoing manager Jurgen Klopp after Virgil van Dijk’s header late in extra time won the Carabao Cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea. Victory keeps Liverpool, top of the league by one point from Manchester City, alive in their bid for a quadruple as they remain among the favourites for both the FA Cup and the Europa League. Even with 120 minutes in their legs from Wembley, few would bet against them in a home tie against Championship Southampton.

    Chelsea to bounce back

    Mauricio Pochettino told his Chelsea players they needed to feel hurt by their Carabao Cup final loss, in which their performance in extra time prompted Gary Neville to call them “blue billion pound bottle jobs” on Sky Sports. Pochettino is yet to get a consistent tune out of his expensively-assembled squad, and Sunday’s defeat means the Argentinian has lost all three major finals he has reached while managing in England. The FA Cup offers an opportunity to put that right and their first opportunity to show a response comes on Wednesday, when they are favourites to see off Championship Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

    Guardiola looking forward to intense period

    As Manchester City return to Kenilworth Road to face Luton, where they had to come from behind to win 2-1 in the league in December, Pep Guardiola said he was relishing the decisive part of the season as his side look to replicate last season’s historic treble. Few would blame him given City’s enviable habit of reeling off long winning runs at this stage of a campaign. “Tomorrow is a final, like every game in Premier League and of course in Champions League,” Guardiola said. “The decisive part of the season is here ahead of us, in front of us, not far away, and we are going for it.”

    Newcastle seeking consistency

    Eddie Howe’s side slipped to ninth place with Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Arsenal, a mile off the sort of form that got them into the Champions League last term as a season best described as up and down continues. The best hope of returning to Europe next season may well lie with the FA Cup – a competition Newcastle are desperate to win to end their 55-year wait for major silverware. Although away from home, they should be firm favourites away to a Blackburn side still seeking a first win under new manager John Eustace. “This season can still be very special for us,” Howe said. “But we have to make it happen.”

  • We’re going for it: Pep Guardiola relishing crunch period as Man City eye titles We’re going for it: Pep Guardiola relishing crunch period as Man City eye titles

    Pep Guardiola is relishing the decisive phase of the season and has promised Manchester City are again “going for it”.

    The treble winners are in strong contention to repeat last season’s glories in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

    March will be a crucial month with a derby against Manchester United followed by clashes against title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal. They will also look to wrap up their place in the Champions League quarter-finals as they host FC Copenhagen leading 3-1 after the first leg of their last-16 tie.

    Prior to that comes an FA Cup fifth-round trip to Luton on Tuesday and Guardiola is looking forward to that and the coming weeks.

    The City manager said: “So after this game, February is over. Just two-and-a-half, three months to end of the season and we’ve arrived here still being there (in the competitions).

    “Tomorrow is a final, like every game in Premier League and of course in Champions League.

    “The decisive part of the season is here ahead of us, in front of us, not far away, and we are going for it.

    “It’s better to play for this than being 10th in the table and (having) no chance for that. The feeling is that if you lose – bye-bye. It’s so nice.

    “The problem is September, October – you see the expectations far, far away. In that moment you don’t think about any titles.

    “We don’t even now. I would say how we’ll define the end of March, beginning of April depends on what we have done this next month. Tomorrow and this month will (determine) our options.”

    City have close to a fully-fit squad for the trip to Kenilworth Road after Jack Grealish returned to the squad as an unused substitute at Bournemouth on Saturday following a groin injury.

    Defender Josko Gvardiol is now the team’s only notable absentee with an ankle problem and Guardiola is hopeful he will return soon.

    City needed to come from behind to beat relegation battlers Luton away in December and Guardiola is anticipating another tricky encounter.

    He said: “It will be even more difficult. We saw all the games played there against the top, top sides, and the reason why is clear – football goes in the direction Luton play, so, so aggressive.

    “It doesn’t matter if you are at top of the league, the bottom or in the middle, (they have) courage to play and face the challenge without any fear.

    “And after, it’s not just that. They have played direct channels but at the same time they have the ability. I think they’ve improved a lot since we met them there with their build-up play and the patterns are so clear.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.