Xavi has insisted that there has been no change in Barcelona’s famed style of play under Gerardo Martino. Barcelona’s coach has faced repeated questions about the team’s apparent shift away from the possession-gorging approach that has been particularly synonymous with the club during their recent domination of the European landscape. Xavi has been the player who most embodied the tiki-taka approach but, now aged 33, his influence has been said to have diminished. The midfielder, though, disputes both suggestions.
“Our philosophy is clear -- to play good football and achieve our objectives,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “We know what type of players we are and our philosophy is to have the ball as much as possible. We don’t have to change our style, on the contrary, we’ve had a lot of success because of it. There’s no internal debate about it, we are all clear about it.
“My role in the team hasn’t changed or varied, the system hasn’t changed, the ideas haven’t changed. I feel even more important than before, and I participate in the attack even more. The first message Tata [Martino] gave us was that our philosophy was non-negotiable and untouchable.”
Xavi did concede that the team is not currently firing on all cylinders; something which could be seen one of two ways given that Barcelona remain unbeaten in all competitions this season. Barcelona secured their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a 3-1 win over Milan in midweek, and on Sunday, they will be looking to at least preserve their current one-point lead atop La Liga when they take on Real Betis at the Estadio Benito Villamarin.
After a seventh placed finish last term, Betis have struggled at the start of this season and are on a run of just one point from five La Liga matches. However, after a win in the Europa League at Portuguese side Vitoria de Guimaraes, manager Pepe Mel was hopeful that his side could find their feet.
“The truth is that today we are very happy but the next game is going to be difficult,” he said, according to Real Betis’ official website. “It is hard to beat Barcelona, but we'll try.
“The team is really united, if it wasn't I would have thrown in the towel already. I have a lot of drive because that is what the players give me, it's what the board gives me and what the fans give me. We'll move on now for sure.”
That resolve will be tested, though, by a lengthy injury list and a suspension to Javi Chica.
Prediction: Barcelona continue to pick up wins, yet without playing with the fluidity that has come to be expected. Lionel Messi getting back among the goals against Milan was encouraging, although he is still searching for his best form. However, with Neymar providing the invention often absent elsewhere, Barcelona should have enough to dispose of a struggling Betis side.
Real Betis 0-2 Barcelona
Where to watch: The Spanish Primera Division match will kick off at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport Espanol, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.