Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez has admitted he loves the atmosphere at the Bernabeu ahead of their clash on Thursday night in the Copa del Rey semifinal first leg.
The Blaugrana will be without three key players as they prepare to face the Laliga champions but the former La Masia graduate is relishing the prospect of facing the arch-rival.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, the 43-year-old admitted he loves going to the Bernabeu.
“Going to Santiago Bernabeu always turns me on, I’d like to play. I’d love to! It’s a great feeling and that’s why I tell my players that they have to be brave.”
“We are in a good situation. We have the opportunity to win a title. It is an opportunity to react. We will go out to win and show our personality,” he added.
In the La Liga standings, Barcelona currently has a seven-point advantage over Real Madrid. However, recent injuries to several important players, including Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembélé, and Pedri, have caused them to struggle to score goals.
The trio has scored over 40 goals for Barcelona this season, with 25 coming from Lewandowski, Dembele netting eight and seven coming from Pedri.
Lewandowski is out with a hamstring strain that he sustained in the 1-0 defeat to Almería on Sunday, while Pedri and Dembele are out with muscle injuries.
Xavi went on to say that Real Madrid remains favorite for the tie even if the Catalans are at full strength.
“Madrid are favourites because they are LaLiga and Champions League holders, they are a tough opponent and they are in good form.”
“We have won a trophy, beating them in the final, playing extraordinary football, but it’s Madrid. They are competing really well — they scored five goals against Liverpool.”
“I have to be honest. I don’t mind saying it. That said, we have the weapons to do damage, we have shown that, and it will be an even tie, but they are favourites.”
While Barca are without Lewandowski, Pedri and Dembele, Madrid are likely to welcome back Rodrygo after he returned to training this week but they will be missing Ferland Mendy and David Alaba through injury, with Nacho Fernandez likely to continue at left-back.
The other semifinal pits Osasuna against Athletic Club, with the first-leg ending 1-0 in favor of the Los Rojillos. The return leg is scheduled for the first week of April, with the final scheduled for May 6.