Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez players felt ‘robbed at home’ after Europa League ticketing fiasco
Xavi Hernandez says Barcelona players felt like they had been ‘robbed from their own home’ after around 30,000 Eintracht Frankfurt fans entered Camp Nou for the Europa League quarter-final Thursday.
German side Frankfurt won the match 3-2 to set up a semi-final against West Ham United, with Xavi saying the atmosphere had a big effect on Barca’s performance.
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“The players didn’t feel like they were playing at home,” Xavi said ahead of Monday’s La Liga match against Cádiz.
“It’s not an excuse, but the atmosphere conditioned us. We were not comfortable. I had a bad feeling from the first moment we got on the bus at the hotel and we did not feel at home.
“They were throwing everything at us, [the players] couldn’t even go down the tunnel. Then we gave away a penalty in the first minute. It was a fateful evening in every way, sportingly and institutionally. It started badly and ended badly. You feel robbed in your own home.”
Barca officially gave Frankfurt 5,000 tickets for the game, but many more were able to buy seats at home, with more than 30,000 German fans among the 79,000 spectators.
President Joan Laporta has said Barca will make tickets for non-domestic matches non-transferable from now on, but Xavi still wants an explanation from the club on how they effectively gave up home advantage for such a big deal. match.
“The club will give an explanation at some point – or at least find solutions so that it doesn’t happen again,” added Xavi.
“It was the club’s mistake, that’s for sure. When the club finds out what mistakes led to the events on Thursday, they will explain it to us.”
Meanwhile, the fallout among Barca fans continued with a group of supporters announcing they will not be attending Monday’s game in protest.
In a press release, La Grada d’Animacio – who fill in the section behind one of the Camp Nou goals – describe Thursday’s events as an ‘invasion’ and a ‘humiliation’ and say they will stay away as a result.
The ticket fiasco partly covered up a poor run of performance. Barca kicked into high gear ahead of the March international break with a 4-0 win over Real Madrid but, after a narrow win over Sevilla, they struggled in two games against Frankfurt and Levante.
“There were good moments against Levante and in the first leg against Frankfurt,” Xavi said. “In general, though, we lost a lot of balls in the last three games and that affected us.
“But we have to keep believing in what we are doing. The level has gone down, that’s for sure, but it’s a process. A change in style of play takes time, patience, conviction and hard work. We have to go back to what we were doing when we beat Madrid and Napoli and the results will come.
“We have to improve, we have to focus from the start. It is the key to score the first goal, it allows the teams to open up. The project has only just begun. There are good signs, but it It’s clear that we have to improve.”
Since Xavi took over, Barca have gone from ninth to second place in La Liga and Thursday’s loss to Frankfurt was their first loss in normal time in any competition since December 8.
They have won seven games in a row in La Liga and, if Madrid slip up at Sevilla on Sunday, they could move within six points of the league leaders if they win their games in hand.
“If we don’t win the eight games we have left, no,” Xavi said of Barca’s title hopes. “Ahead of Madrid’s game at Sevilla, we have to focus on ourselves. The first objective is to qualify for the Champions League next season.
“If after that we can compete for La Liga, perfect. It is possible to win all eight games, but it will be difficult. Cadiz are playing for their life, Real Sociedad want to enter Europe, Rayo still need points to survive . . everyone is playing for something.”
Barca will be without injured Gerard Pique and suspended Ronald Araujo for the visit to Cadiz, leaving them short on defense as the game comes too early for Ansu Fati’s return from a hamstring problem -legs.
Midfielder Pedri is also out with a thigh problem picked up in the Frankfurt defeat and is set to miss the rest of the season.
“Pedri is in pain,” Xavi said. “He was in his best form of the season. It’s a setback for him and for the team.”