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06.06.2007 14:55

Xavi: "Espanyol will want to win"

Berta Brau

As FC Barcelona begin preparations for the crucial local derby against RCD Espanyol on Saturday, Xavi Hernández described the game as transcendental in a press conference on Wednesday.

Frank Rijkaard's team will face a very different team to the one that they played in the Copa Catalunya, despite the fact that Ernesto Valverde's side have nothing left to play for in the league. Xavi's recognised that Espanyol will be very keen to win the encounter at the weekend: "The game will be transcendental for us, but not for them," he said. "Although they are not playing for anything, they will still be coming here to take us on and earn a a result. The rivalry in these games is completely normal and they will want to win to silence our fans."

With Ronaldinho's place in the game still uncertain, Xavi believes that the team knows that they could be without the Brazilian, although "we expect that he should be available, he is one of the best players in the world and we need him," he said.

Difficult for Madrid

"We believe that Madrid will stumble," Xavi continued. "They have it in their hands, but la Romareda is a very difficult place to go. We will be playing to win ourselves, but also count on what is happening elsewhere. Madrid could stumble as they have done on other occasions and like we did against Real Zaragoza."

Two chances

With only two games to go before the end of the season, the Barça players recognise that there are not many opportunities left for Madrid to slip up. "The most logical thing is that Zaragoza win this game," Xavi said about the prospects of Fabio Capello's side, before noting that Real Mallorca could still cause an upset on the final day. "That would be the last chance. It would be fantastic if they could win," he added.

Staying calm

Reflecting on the yellow card he received against Latvia at the weekend that meant that he was ineligible for Spain's game against Liechtenstein on Wednesday, the Terrassa-born midfielder said: "My conscience is clear. I do understand all the controversy. Everyone plays with cards hanging over them and I have done this for the good of everyone." Answering the critics who have questioned his commitment, Xavi stated: "When I am called up I have always gone and I have done my best."
Xavi: “Espanyol will want to win“

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Derby experience
Xavi has appeared in the most derbies against Espanyol out of all the current members of the FC Barcelona first team squad, having played in 13 games against the Blaugrana's city rivals. The midfielder has scored three goals since making his debut in the 1998-99 campaign.

The 27-year-old is not the player to have played against Espanyol on the most occasions, however, as Santi Ezquerro has been on the opposing side in 14 games. His first encounter was in the 1997-98 season for Real Mallorca before playing them 12 times for Athletic Bilbao. He has also played once for Barça against them.

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