Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Xavi pitches in as Barcelona’s war of words with Real Madrid escalates

Barcelona midfielder Xavi has hit out at Real Madrid's recent conduct as the heated build-up continues ahead of the second leg of their Champions league semi-final tie at the Nou Camp.

Tonight's match is the fourth meeting between the Spanish rivals in 18 days and follows last Wednesday's bad-tempered clash at the Bernabeu, which Barca won 2-0 thanks to a Lionel Messi brace.

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho and Barca boss Pep Guardiola were involved in a war of words prior to that match and tempers subsequently frayed on the pitch. Post-match, Mourinho hit out at Barca and Guardiola, questioning the club's agreement with Unicef, calling the side's last Champions League win a “scandal” and claiming the Catalans receive support from Uefa in the big European matches.

Barca reported Madrid to Uefa the next day, with Los Merengues responding in kind by lodging a complaint about the Catalan club for anti-sporting conduct and although both complaints were yesterday dismissed, the bad feeling remains.

Spain star Xavi (pictured) has criticised Mourinho's side for their manipulation of the Bernabeu pitch both last Wednesday and prior to the league game which kicked off this unique series of Clasico clashes on April 16.

Madrid deliberately let the grass grow long and opted to keep the pitch dry for those matches in order to stifle Barca's slick passing game, a tactic which has angered Xavi.

“I believe people like to see attractive football on a good playing surface, not long grass and hard pitches,” he said.

“It's deplorable that there are no regulations in place for the state of the pitches.”

Despite his reservations about the Bernabeu pitch, Xavi hopes the talk will soon return to the football following the off-field controversies of the last week.

“I have the feeling that we are talking very little about football and that makes me sad,” he said.

“I love playing against Real Madrid and I love playing in these big games. They are very exciting challenges.”

Barcelona won their first ever European Cup at Wembley in 1992 and Xavi hopes his side can repeat that triumph in London this season.

“I watched it at home because my parents didn't let me go to Wembley,” he recalled. “It was a great day for the club and now we have a chance to go back there. We are up against an historical rival in Madrid and it would be very special to beat them, to go back there for another final.”

Messi’s brace has given Barca the edge ahead of the second leg, but Xavi believes his side must dominate again to secure their passage to the final.

“We will try to dominate possession — that's the key. We have to be superior again,” he said. “We must be true to our philosophy.”

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