Barça need to up ef­fort – Xavi

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

MID­FIELDER Xavi Her­nan­dez be­lieves Barcelona have to re­cover the in­ten­sity in their play if they are to avoid a first league de­feat of the sea­son when they travel to Ath­letic Bil­bao tomorrow.

On Tues­day the Cata­lans were beaten for the first time in 21 games since Ger­ardo Martino took charge in July, as they pro­duced an in­sipid dis­play in go­ing down 2-1 to Ajax in Am­s­ter­dam in the Cham­pi­ons League.

De­feat was the first sign that Barça could be miss­ing the in­flu­ence of the in­jured Lionel Messi and Vic­tor Valdes, but Xavi in­sisted those that are avail­able have to show the right at­ti­tude when they face Ath­letic.

“They are im­por­tant play­ers and you are go­ing to miss them, but that wasn’t the prin­ci­pal rea­son for the de­feat. We didn’t do enough to win.

“We need to have in­ten­sity from the start and in San Mames it will be another test.

“We need to turn it around and go for it from the off with that in­ten­sity that we lacked (against Ajax).”

Barça are likely to also be with­out full- backs Adri­ano, Jordi Alba and Dani Alves tomorrow, but Ser­gio Bus­quets and Alexis Sanchez will re­turn af­ter be­ing rested in mid­week.

Ath­letic have had an im­pres­sive start to the cam­paign them­selves as Mon­day’s 2-1 win over Malaga moved them to within a point of Vil­lar­real in the fi­nal Cham­pi­ons League spot.

Ernesto Valverde’s side are un­beaten at home since the open­ing of the new San Mames in Septem­ber with four wins and two draws from six games at their new sta­dium.

Real Madrid have the chance to cut their gap to Barcelona to three points for 24 hours at least – they host Val­ladolid to­day. Carlo Ancelotti’s men con­tin­ued their free-scor­ing form with a 4-1 de­struc­tion of Galatasaray in the Cham­pi­ons League on Wed­nes­day de­spite play­ing most of the match with just 10 men.

Ron­aldo has not re­cov­ered suf­fi­ciently from a mus­cle strain and will miss the La Liga game said coach Ancelotti.

Ron­aldo, who has net­ted 14 goals in his last seven ap­pear­ances for club and coun­try, limped off at the start of the sec­ond half of last weekend’s win at Alme­ria and a scan on Mon­day con­firmed he had dam­aged a ham­string. – Sapa-AFP

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