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01.09.2007 12:47

Xavi proud as landmark approaches

Marc Guillén

Xavi Hernández is line to make his 250th league appearance for FC Barcelona this weekend, a milestone that only few players reach. In an interview with Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat, the creative midfielder analysed the current state of the team.

You are only 27 and have already played 250 league games for Barça, placing you at number 16 on the list of all-time appearance holders for the club in the league. What does that mean to you?

"Well, the truth is that I did not know about it and when I read that the other day I was very pleased. I was fortunate to start playing at a young age because at that time the coach, Luis Van Gaal, showed great faith in me. I am very happy, and the same time proud, of have played so many times for a team who I always wanted to play for. It is true that I have now played quite a few games and spent quite a few seasons here.

You have reached a landmark at the start of a new season. What are you aiming for this year?

"This season everyone is expecting us to win something and that is an added pressure for us all. Having not won a major title last season, this year we have many challenges, including the league, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, and we cannot fail. We have to win as many of those trophies as we can. We know that the supporters will demand a lot from us, as was shown after the goalless draw against Racing in Santander. But it is a case of knowing how to handle that pressure and believing that we have a great squad that can win these things."

Xavi_2_accix_saragossa-fcb_23-5-04.jpgYou have been involved in all the games, official and friendly, this season. Do you see yourself as a key member of the team.?

"I feel like any other player. The coach has said he counts on all the players, but the truth is that I am pleased to have played regularly in pre-seson and have start the league as one of the starting team. Everyone, not just Rijkaard, but also the coaching staff, the fans and my team-mates have given me confidence and I do feel that I am important here, which is something that is vital to me."

Has the team received excessive praise during pre-season?

"Yes, I believe we have. This club does not deal in half measures: when things go well everyone is on cloud nine and when things go badly everyone hits rock bottom. That is how things work. You have to try and be rational and to believe that when things well that you are not the best and that when you lose you are not the worst. As long as you believe in yourself and do your job well, believe in the club's philosophy then, from there, things can be achieved. We have to forget how famous the club is and focus on those other things."

Is it a question of honour to make up for last season?

"We are a squad that has been together a number of years and we are used to winning trophies and I think that last season was a cruel blow. To lose the league in the final two weeks or to think that we basically gave it to Madrid, hurt our pride. We know that we are a winning team and that we have so many winners in the side because have the best players. We have to take advantage of them because a few years ago we did not have them, as the bworld's best players were with Madrid and now we have them here. We have to make use of this moment because sometimes you do not realise what you have and the time passes and you have not done all you can to win all the trophies."

xavientreno220707.jpgYou were enthusiastic about signing Henry. Is Henry the player and the person who you though he would be?

"He has not disappointed us in any way. As a player he is a superstar. His physical level is incredible. He can score goals. He has given a new depth to our play, that perhaps we did not have with (Ludovic) Giuly. We know that he is a player that can score or make the difference at any moment, as he showed against Racing when he hit the post after producing a shot from nothing. For us all, it is a pleasure to have him as part of our squad. As a person he is also great. He has surprised me a lot because he is quite mischievous and is always making jokes. He is a great person and team-mate and is friends with all the players here."

People have talked a lot about the presence of Touré Yaya in midfield. Do you think that he is the kind of midfielder that the team has been lacking?

"Touré is not a typical player for that position. We though that he was only a physical player and was strong in the air, but he has surprised us all because he is also technically superb. He is a strong player, who has great ability and is adaptable across the centre of midifeld which helps those of us who play just ahead of him. He is a player that has given us security, because a player like Touré can not only be physical in the tackle and win the ball back, but he also passes very well."
Xavi proud as landmark approaches

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What are your thoughts on the next game against Athletic Bilbao?
"It is a home game for us and we know that the league is won by picking up every point that you can at home throughout the season. We are going into it having drawn our first game away and people will expect a lot from us. It was a shame that we could not win in Santander. Athletic are a side that like to battle for everything and they have players that fight for every ball away from home and have strong forwards. We will have to watch them particularly at set pieces. I think that they will play defensively here at Camp Nou and try to break out on the counter-attack. It will be a difficult game for us, but if we can score early on then the game should open up and make things easier, but until we score that first goal then it will be complicated."

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