Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has offered an optimistic fitness update on centre-back Jules Kounde who is out with a hamstring injury sustained while on international duty with France.
The summer signing will not feature in Barcelona’s crucial Champions League game against Inter on Wednesday, October 12 but could return against Real Madrid on Sunday in La Liga.
Xavi told a pre-match press conference that he is confident the versatile France international will return for the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu.
“In principle, we don’t count on Kounde for tomorrow, except for any surprises,” he explained. “I think he can make the Clasico on Sunday, but it will depend on how he feels. If he’s not 100 per cent, then maybe not but I think he can make it against Madrid.”
Barcelona will be hoping to have Kounde back as soon as possible as the summer signing was in superb form for the Catalan giants in the early weeks of the 2022-23 campaign.
Kounde is one of several players missing through injury. Ronald Araujo, Memphis Depay, Hector Bellerin, and Andreas Christensen are also sidelined.
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Xavi Expecting Defensive Inter
Xavi spoke about his team’s chances against Inter and is expecting to make a very defensive team at the Camp Nou. The Nerazzurri beat Barcelona 1-0 at the San Siro last time out in the competition and sit second in the group.
A draw would keep Inter in a good position to qualify ahead of the final two rounds of the group, and Xavi knows his team will have to work hard to break the Serie A side down.
“We expect something very similar to what we saw in the other leg. They are very defensive, they are normally very far back in their defending, with their medium block,” he said. “We’ve been working hard in training to work them out better. I think we’ve improved a bit than the Barca we were in the last 15-20 minutes in Milan.”
Barcelona Facing ‘Final’
Xavi also admitted that the game feels like a final to his side as defeat would ruin the team’s chances of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition. The Barcelona boss also told his players to enjoy the occasions and leave the pressure to him.
“The message I’m giving you now is this is a final. We need to go for everything, be positive, to try and not feel the pressure. The pressure is there for me as a coach and I hope they enjoy the game,” he added. “It’s amazing seeing the Camp Nou full, full of our fans, something to enjoy, the atmosphere, the feelings, and if they win even better. If they win the match it will change the dynamic in the group.”
Barcelona went out of the Champions League at the group stages last season and will want to avoid suffering a similar fate this year. An early exit would prove extremely costly to the Catalans financially and would also show Xavi’s side are still a long way from competing with Europe’s best.
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