Xavi has 'first title in sight' as Barcelona take on Real Betis in Spanish Super Cup

Catalan giants play last-four clash in Saudi Arabia on Thursday with potential final against Real Madrid three days later

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Xavi Hernandez is determined to win his first trophy as Barcelona manager as his team prepare for Thursday's Spanish Super Cup semi-final clash against Real Betis in Saudi Arabia.

The Catalan giants moved clear at the top of La Liga after their 1-0 victory at Atletico Madrid on Sunday, courtesy of Ousmane Dembele's first-half winner at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

A delighted Xavi said that Barca are “candidates to win this league” after a battling performance in the Spanish capital that leaves them three points ahead of second placed Real Madrid in the table.

Next up for Barca is Real Betis in Riyadh – before a potential final against Real Madrid or Valencia on Sunday – and Xavi admits the pressure is growing for him to win the club's first trophy since the Spanish Cup in 2021.

“I have my hope and desire intact from the first day, I'm here to win titles and if there are no titles this season, you'll kill me, that's how it is,” Xavi told reporters on Wednesday.

“We have a title in sight, four days away, we have to win tomorrow and go for it, it's been a little while without titles and it's time [to win them] now.”

Barcelona gambled in the summer by making big investments in the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha after watching arch-rivals Real Madrid win La Liga and the Champions League last season.

The club sold 25 per cent of their league television rights to US investment firm Sixth Street in the summer for the next 25 years to make an estimated €665 million ($716 million).

Along with other deals, including selling almost 50 per cent of their production company Barca Studios, the club were able to boost their spending power.

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However the Catalans were eliminated from the Champions League in the group phase and dropped down into the Europa League, where they face Manchester United in the knockout phase play-offs.

The Spanish Super Cup is their first chance this season to prove the big investment was wise and the project is moving in the right direction.

“We are very motivated to win the trophy, it won't change a lot but it would bring us a lot of calm,” added Xavi.

Xavi, meanwhile, denied any interest in bringing Chelsea striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back to Camp Nou this month.

The Gabonese attacker only left Barcelona for a return to London – having previously played for Arsenal – last September to play under his former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel.

But Tuchel was sacked by Chelsea a week later and replaced with Graham Potter and Aubameyang has barely figured under his new manager with reports emerging this week that he was trying to engineer a move back to Spain.

Aubameyang enjoyed a successful stint with the club, scoring 13 goals in 23 appearances, but Xavi played down any hint of a return – and also claimed he knew nothing about reports that Barca striker Memphis Depay could be sold to Atletico Madrid.

“We are happy with the squad. In principle, there will be no changes,” he said. “We do not know anything [about Depay]. We will see what happens. I told the board that I’d be happy if the squad remains as it is.”

Updated: January 11, 2023, 5:11 PM