Barça need to up effort – Xavi
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