Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez is targeting Spanish Supercopa success in Saudi Arabia this week to kickstart a new era at the club.
Xavi took over Barca when they were ninth in LaLiga 14 months ago and led them to a second-placed finish, while they currently sit top of the league, three points clear of Real Madrid, after 16 games this season.
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However, Barca have won just one trophy in the last three seasons — the Copa del Rey under Ronald Koeman in 2021 — and Xavi knows he must turn performances into titles to appease supporters.
“This competition is very important for us,” Xavi told a news conference ahead of Thursday’s Supercopa semifinal against Real Betis (streaming LIVE, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN+), with the winners facing Real Madrid or Valencia in Sunday’s final.
“We have still not won the Supercopa in this format. I don’t think it will change too much if we win it or not, but we want to be in the final on Sunday. It would be a disappointment if we didn’t win it. If we win it, it will strengthen us a lot.
“I really want to win a trophy. I have had that desire from the first day. I am here to win trophies and if I win none this season, you’re [the media] going to kill me. It’s been a while since we won a trophy, so it’s time.”
Barca have won the Supercopa 13 times, more than any other club, including eight times this century. But they have not lifted the trophy since it switched to a four-team, mid-season competition in 2020.
Midfielder Sergi Roberto echoed Xavi’s comments that triumphing in Riyadh, where all three games will be played, could provide a springboard for the rest of the season, with LaLiga, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League all up for grabs.
“We hope the bad run ends and we can win our first Supercopa in this new format,” Roberto said in a news conference. “There is a lot of desire to win our first trophy [under Xavi].
“It’s been a few years now of not being able to lift the trophies we are used to winning. That has been good to help us see how difficult it is and to give importance to each trophy.
“We can start [a new era] from now, winning the Supercopa, which for this team would be really important. We have young players who haven’t won much — or anything. I hope the Supercopa can be the first trophy of the season but not the last.”
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The competition was first played in Saudi Arabia in Jeddah in 2020. The pandemic then took it back to Spain the following year, but it returned to Riyadh last year and there is a contract for it to remain in the Middle Eastern country until 2029.
“Of course there are business reasons behind [playing in Saudi Arabia] and we come here for the good of Spanish football,” Xavi said when asked about playing abroad.
“The clubs benefit from it. Clubs with financial problems generate money. There are positive things and things that are not so positive, but this is football […] there was also a lot of criticism about Qatar and we saw that it’s not that bad.
“As a country, Saudi Arabia has things to improve but so does Spain, where we have 200 things to improve. Football is a show that everyone deserves wherever they are.”
Barca have a fully fit squad to face Betis on Thursday, with Robert Lewandowski set to lead the line. The Polish striker is currently in the middle of a three-game ban in LaLiga but it does not carry into the Supercopa.
That suspension had been delayed last month, allowing him to play against Espanyol, who filed a complaint for an ineligible line-up against Barca due to Lewandowski’s presence. That complaint was dismissed on Wednesday.
Ferran Torres has also been banned for two games in the league for the red card he was shown for pulling Stefan Savic’s hair in the win against Atletico Madrid on Sunday. Xavi called the ban “excessive.”
Betis, meanwhile, will be out to cause an upset against Barca and follow up their Copa del Rey win last season, which qualified them for the Supercopa, with another trophy.
“They are a side that likes to have the ball,” Xavi said. [Manuel] Pellegrini is an attacking coach who likes technical players. They have [Sergio] Canales, [Nabil] Fekir, Luiz Henrique — very good players.
“They play with a high line, press and they are technically very strong. We have a big task on our hands on Thursday because they are a very good team.”