Xavi has warned the Barcelona players that they can’t claim the title even if they beat Real Madrid in Sunday’s Clasico.
Barca welcome Real Madrid to the Camp Nou in the second La Liga Clasico of the season, and it comes at a potentially pivotal moment.
Blaugrana are already nine points clear at the La Liga summit, meaning anything short of beating Real Madrid will likely lead the Spanish media to declare Barça champions.
Even if Barça lose, there is still likely to be a fair amount of optimism at the Camp Nou given that no team has ever led by a full nine points at this stage of the season and failed to win the title.
Xavi acknowledges the importance of Sunday’s bout but is unconvinced by speculation that it will be decisive for both teams.
“If we win it will be a blow [for Madrid] table, he said.
“It wouldn’t be final, but it would be a strong blow. Whatever happens, I think nothing will be solved [on Sunday].
“We train naturally, knowing we have a great opportunity. If we win, we will take a very important step towards winning the league.
“We are very motivated. For some players, this will be the first championship title. We were preparing for the match, no matter how important it was.”
Sunday’s game will be the second in a series of three Clasicos in just over a month. Barca win 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu in the Copa del Rey on 2 March; the second leg of this semi-final is scheduled for 5 April.
Their meeting earlier this month made a particular impression, with Real Madrid recording a 64.7% possession percentage, the highest they have seen in the Clasico since at least the 2013-14 season. At the same time, Barcelona’s 35.3% possession percentage was the lowest in a single match in any competition during the same period.
Even though Barça won that game, Xavi wants to improve.
“Personally, I would like us to have a little more possession than in the Cup,” he said.
“We are preparing the game in a certain way. We will try to control the ball better than in the past Clasico, have more possession of the ball and play a major role with it.
“I think Madrid are very strong, they have improved a lot physically since January. I believe it will be a tight game.
Clasico are unpredictable, you never know what they will bring. We are well prepared; we have prepared many aspects. We hope the Camp Nou will be their pressure cooker.”
Of course, being able to use Pedri’s ability on the ball would have helped Barca retain possession of the ball.
However, the Spain international will be out again on Sunday with a permanent hamstring injury and Xavi doesn’t want to risk him.
“We knew there was a risk [with Pedri]Xavi continued. “[On Friday] he didn’t feel 100 percent, and if you’re not in good shape, the best thing you can do is get well.
“We talked to him and said that he does not need to force himself. It’s an important game, but it’s not the best ending. We don’t want to lose Pedri for another two months.
“We played well without [Robert] Lewandowski, no Pedri, no [Ousmane] Dembele, without Gavi… We did it.
“People keep talking about the first leg of the Kopa semi-finals, but this is the only game we didn’t have possession of the ball.
“It is clear: a match in which we dominate will not change our mentality. Since the first day I’ve been here, we’ve been working very concretely.”