Barcelona boss Xavi Hernandez has praised Ousmane Dembele for his clutch performance in the Copa del Rey Round of 32 clash against Linares Deportivo.
Dembele replaced Ilias Akhomach at half-time with the Blaugrana trailing 1-0 against the minnows. The Frenchman made an impact 17 minutes later, curling an effort into the bottom corner to bring his team level.
He also had another chance to score late on, racing into the penalty area, but seeing his shot cannoning back off the crossbar.
The Blaugrana eventually eked out a 2-1 win, thanks to Ferran Jutgla’s excellent finish in the 69th minute. Speaking after the game, Xavi lauded Dembele for coming up with the goods when the team sorely needed them. He said (as quoted by Barca Blaugranes):
“We needed him, and he has delivered. He has made a difference; he could have scored another great goal too; I’m happy with him.”
Xavi, though, also revealed that the club and the 24-year-old are yet to reach an agreement on a contract extension. He said:
“In terms of football, there is nothing to say, very well in one on one, which is what we need; there is nothing new about the renewal issue.”
Dembele’s return to the team after a COVID-19-induced absence was a massive positive for Barcelona on the night. The winger also scored his first goal of the season in his ninth appearance, having recorded two assists before.
However, as things stand, Dembele is set to depart the Nou Camp on a free transfer in the summer. The Blaugrana are reportedly looking to sell him in the ongoing window, with the likes of Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain rumoured to be interested.
“It was a difficult day” – Xavi feels Barcelona struggled to match Linares’ intensity
Xavi acknowledged that he had warned his players of getting complacent ahead of the game, despite telling them they were the better unit overall. He said:
“I told my players that they were better than the opponents, but I told them that two things could happen to us, an expulsion or not equalling the intensity of Linares, and this is what exactly happened to us in the first few minutes.”
The Barcelona boss added that no opponent can be taken for granted, saying:
“It was a difficult day because everyone expected a win, but football is no longer like that. It is difficult to attack an orderly team. We are seeing it; all La Liga teams suffer; everyone works tactically and physically.”
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Xavi will be glad that his team picked up the win to progress to the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey. Next up, the Blaugrana will face Granada in La Liga.