Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez believes Sunday’s clasico against Real Madrid is an “opportunity” for his players to bounce back from their Champions League struggles and cement top spot in La Liga.
Barca are enjoying a strong start to the league season having won seven and drawing one of their opening eight games to share top spot with Real Madrid, who hold the same record.
However, Barcelona’s European form has been less convincing after winning just one of their four games to face elimination from the group stage for a second successive year.
Xavi is keen for his team to set aside their Champions League disappointment and use Sunday’s visit to the Santiago Bernabeu as a chance to bounce back.
“I’m always an optimist and I see this game as a great opportunity for us. We are the (Liga) leaders and we want to continue to be as of Sunday,” Xavi told a news conference.
“We want to leave the past behind. If we are positive, everything will be fine.”
Barcelona, who have been struggling with several injuries, do have some positive team news after Xavi confirmed French defender Jules Kounde is set to return after missing recent matches with a hamstring injury.
“He is very well, 100 per cent and happy,” Xavi said. “His feelings are very good. He has trained very hard and is available for Sunday.”
Indeed, Kounde was among the Barcelona players who took part in the final training session at the club’s Joan Gamper training ground on Saturday ahead of the clasico. Robert Lewandowski, who scored twice to earn Barca a 3-3 draw with Inter Milan on Wednesday, also went through his paces alongside the likes of Ansu Fati, Raphinha, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba.