Xavi warned his Barcelona players they cannot assume the title is theirs even if they beat Real Madrid in Sunday’s Clasico.
Barca welcome Madrid to Camp Nou for the second LaLiga Clasico of the season, and it comes at a potentially pivotal moment.
The Blaugrana are already nine points clear at LaLiga’s summit, meaning anything other than a Madrid win will likely have the Spanish media proclaiming Barca as champions.
Even if Barca do lose, there will still likely be a fair amount of optimism at Camp Nou, given no team have ever led by as many as nine points at this stage of the season and failed to win the title.
Xavi recognises the importance of Sunday’s contest, but he is not convinced by suggestions it is decisive – for either team.
“If we win, it would be a knock [for Madrid] in the table,” he said.
“It wouldn’t be definitive, but it would be a strong blow. Whatever happens, I think nothing will be decided [on Sunday].
“We train naturally, knowing we have a great opportunity. If we win, we will take a very important step to win the league.
“We are very motivated. For some players, it would be the first league title. We prepared for the match, no matter how important it is.”
Sunday’s game will be the second instalment in a run of three Clasicos in just over a month, with Barca winning 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey on March 2; the second leg of that semi-final is set for April 5.
Their meeting earlier this month had a peculiar feel to it, with Real Madrid recording 64.7 per cent possession, a high for them in Clasicos since at least the 2013-14 season. At the same time, Barcelona’s 35.3 per cent possession was their lowest in a single match in any competition over the same period.
Although Barca did win that game, Xavi wants to see an improvement.
“Personally, I would like us to have a little more possession of the ball than in the Copa,” he said.
“We are preparing the game in a certain way. We will try to have more control than in the last Clasico, have more of the ball and be protagonists with it.
“I see Madrid as very strong, they have improved a lot physically since January. I suppose it will be a closely contested game.
“The Clasicos are unpredictable, you never know what they will bring. We have prepared well; we have prepared many aspects. We hope Camp Nou will be a pressure cooker for them.”
Of course, being able to call upon the ball-playing abilities of Pedri would help Barca retain possession.
However, the Spain international will be absent again on Sunday due to a persistent hamstring injury, with Xavi unwilling to risk him.
“We knew there was risk [with Pedri],” Xavi continued. “[On Friday] he didn’t feel 100 per cent, and if you’re not in good shape, the best thing you can do is recover well.
“We talked to him and told him that he didn’t have to force himself. It’s an important game, but it’s not a great final. We don’t want to lose Pedri for two more months.
“We have played well without [Robert] Lewandowski, without Pedri, without [Ousmane] Dembele, without Gavi… We have done it.
“People keep talking about the first leg of the Copa semi-final, but that’s the only game in which we’ve not had possession.
“It’s clear: a match in which we are dominated will not change our mentality. From the first day that I am here, we have worked in a very concrete way.”