Barcelona will be missing three key stars when they head to the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday to play the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. But Barcelona coach Xavi is relishing the prospect of facing their arch-rivals.
“Going to Santiago Bernabeu always turns me on,” Xavi said at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “I’d like to play. I’d love to! It’s a great feeling and that’s why I tell my players that they have to be brave. We are in a good situation. We have the opportunity to win a title. It is an opportunity to react. We will go out to win and show our personality,” he added.
Barca currently lead Real by seven points in the La Liga standings. But they have endured a scoring slump off late, thanks to injuries to key players like Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembélé and Pedri. Between it, the trio has scored 40 goals for Barcelona this season, with 25 coming from Lewandowski, Dembélé nettign eight and seven coming from Pedri.
Lewandowski is out with a hamstring strain that he sustained in the 1-0 defeat to Almería on Sunday, while Pedri and Dembélé are out with muscle injuries.
Xavi went on to say that Real Madrid will start as favourites.
“It would be great for us winning on Thursday at Santiago Bernabeu. But we are facing a great rival… they are the favourites.”