In speaking during his pre-match press conference ahead of Barca’s La Liga home fixture against Osasuna, Xavi was asked about the call to not start Aubameyang in the Catalan side’s recent Europa League round of 16 first leg contest against Galatasaray. The Barca manager noted that the decision was due to fatigue from the forward as of late, and more so, he took some time to laud the veteran goal-scorer.
“He’d played a lot of minutes and I thought about tiredness,” Xavi said. “He’s a player who links with the interiors, does spectacular work, with high pressure after losing the ball. With the intensity we play it’s normal that he’s tired or fatigued, but he’s crucial. He gives a lot of chances, links well, can score, it’s an advantage to have a player like this.”
Aubameyang did go on to feature in the scoreless draw result against Galatasaray. Xavi opted to start forward Memphis Depay in the contest, but he later elected to sub in Aubameyang for the Dutch international in the second half. Aubameyang recorded one total shot attempt and also created one goal-scoring chance during his time on the pitch.
Overall, Aubameyang has emerged as a go-to goal-scorer in his early run at Barca so far in the second half of the campaign. The former Arsenal forward has come into the side and has simply made the most out of his goal-scoring chances in all competitions. He has chipped in for four goals scored in five La Liga appearances to go along with the score in Barca’s Europa League playoff second leg win over Napoli.
Barca now heads into the stretch run of its ongoing campaign, as it will have key La Liga and Europa League fixtures remaining on its schedule. Following its upcoming league contest against Osasuna, Barca will clash against Galatasaray in the return leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie and then meet Real Madrid for an away league fixture before the final international break of the season.
Even with Barca sitting at 15 points behind Real Madrid in the standings at this point in the season, Xavi is still not counting out his side’s chances in La Liga.
“I don’t focus on the math,” Xavi said. “Tomorrow I just want to pick up the three points against Osasuna at home. They are going to make things difficult for us. … I don’t think further ahead. It’s not about Galatasaray, it’s about Osasuna. We’ve analyzed them. They are a good team, have a great coach who can adapt to different systems.
“The focus is on the game tomorrow.”
As mentioned, Barcelona will have the showdown with Real Madrid later in the month, which will then be followed up by key fixtures against the likes of Sevilla and Real Betis over the remainder of its La Liga schedule.
In the big picture, Xavi sure is at the least aiming to lead the Catalan side to a top-four finish in La Liga and a Europa League tournament win this season. The Spanish manager may need talents such as Aubameyang to rise to the occasion and provide a goal-scoring spark in crucial situations of matches.