Xavi Hernandez has revealed what he said to his Barcelona players at half-time after the Catalan giants survived a scare in the Copa del Rey and came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 at third-tier side Linares.
Hugo Díaz headed the hosts ahead in the match with a goal that saw Linares go in 1-0 up at the break. Xavi said after the match that he did not bother with tactical instructions at half-time but simply told his players to believe, as reported by Juan Jimenez at Diario AS.

“I told them we could talk about tactics for three hours, but it was a matter of faith and believing it,” he said. “At that point we were out of the tie. There are phases in which we have played well, but it was the logical thing to do.”

Xavi also made changes for the second half. The coach brought on Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong, and Ousmane Dembele and took off Oscar Mingueza, Riqui Puig, and Ilias Akhomach.

The changes had the desired effect as Dembele equalized for Barcelona with a curling effort to open his account for the 2021-22 season. Ferran Jutgla then fired home a winner to send Barca into the next round.

Xavi also revealed why he had opted for a triple change. He explained, “We were looking for superiorities. We knew it was going to be a difficult match. In the end we were looking for more ball possession and protecting the wings.”

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Xavi Praises Dembele

Dembele’s goal came after he returned to the matchday squad following a negative Covid-19 test. The Frenchman needed less than 20 minutes to score after cutting in from the right and firing a left-footed shot home.

Xavi praised Dembele for his contribution after the match but admitted there is still no update on whether the 24-year-old will extend his contract at the Camp Nou that expires at the end of the season.

“We needed him and he has responded,” he said. “Football-wise, nothing to say. He was able to score a great goal to level the game. There is nothing new about his extension.”

As things stand, Dembele is able to negotiate a pre-contract with other clubs and can leave Barcelona on a free transfer at the end of the current season.


Dani Alves Makes Second Debut

Wednesday’s win was also notable for Dani Alves making his first competitive appearance for the Catalans since returning for a second spell at the Camp Nou on a free transfer.

The 38-year-old started the match and played the entire 90 minutes. The Brazilian told Barca TV after the match about how it was a special moment to wear the famous Barcelona shirt once again.

“After everything that’s happened, to play another official game for Barcelona is such a special gift for me,” he said. “I was enjoying myself playing with my teammates and competing alongside them. It’s a feeling that we represent. We need to instil this in the team. We know there are more surprises all the time in the Copa del Rey. We need to keep improving as a team.  We need to have that spirit to compete, that spirit that we can do it. We need to be mentally strong. I think in the end coming through, the goals came for us, and that’s what we need.”

It’s a winning start for Alves and maintains Barca’s momentum after the 1-0 win over Real Mallorca last time out. Barcelona’s next fixture is away at Granada in La Liga on Saturday, January 8.

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