“Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez suggested he might start certain key players who have been out injured in recent weeks against Real Madrid on Saturday if they arrive 100 percent healthy.
In the build-up to the match, the Spanish champion has been without forwards Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, midfielders Pedri and Frenkie de Jong, and defenders Jules Kounde and Sergi Roberto.
Except for the latter, all of those players participated in training on Friday, with Xavi adding he was amazed by their recoveries and willingness to play against Real Madrid.
“I was surprised to see them in training, too,” Xavi said on Friday.
“We had almost ruled out players, and they all want to be there and play.”
“They all feel very good and you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the squad list.”
Lewandowski, Barcelona’s lone out-and-out striker, has not played since suffering an ankle injury against Porto in the Champions League on October 4.
“Evidently I won’t tell you the lineup or give clues, (but he’s) feeling very good, he’s well,” the head coach stated.
They all feel good and want to be there — it’s a very important game.”
De Jong last played in September before he suffered an ankle sprain, while a hamstring injury has ruled Pedri out since August.
Winger Raphinha has been out with a thigh problem since September, while Kounde suffered a knee sprain against Granada on October 10.
Xavi said he would have no hesitance to start any of the returning players if they are fully fit.
“If they are 100 percent, I’ll play them, there’s no problem,” added the coach.
Barcelona has been forced to lean heavily on youngsters from their La Masia youth academy, with Fermin Lopez, Lamine Yamal and Marc Guiu all scoring important goals.
Xavi had some advice for the younger players who may feature against league leaders Real Madrid.
“Having homegrown players is a boost, it’s fantastic to have players from La Masia, they know about the rivalry, they know the importance of the game, it’s always fundamental,” said Xavi.
‘Hot heart, cold head’ –
“(In the Clasico) there are always more nerves, more tension, controlling those nerves, controlling your character, the tempo of the game, it’s hard, because the heart is hot, but (you need) a cold head, I think that’s the key to these games.
“There is more emotion and desire than normal, but control is key.”
The coach noted Jude Bellingham‘s impressive impact since arriving at Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund this summer.
The England international has netted eight goals and is the division’s leading scorer.
“Bellingham is very important for Madrid with their change of system, he has freedom, and attacks well from deep,” added Xavi.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Bellingham would play after he went off with some discomfort in the midweek Champions League win over Braga.
The Italian said he was impressed by the quality of Barcelona’s youngsters but also noted Madrid had plenty of emerging talent.
“I like them all, Yamal has stood out a lot, Fermin played a very good game too,” Ancelotti told a news conference Friday.
“They are youngsters who have a future, but we have youngsters with a spectacular future too, (Eduardo) Camavinga is very young, Vinicius is very young, Bellingham is very young.”
Ancelotti said the Clasico was important but it was too soon to say whether it would be decisive in the title race.
“It’s just an important game which is worth three points, it’s important for the team’s dynamic,” added the coach.
“In terms of the table, the season is long, it’s too soon to say whether it’s decisive in terms of points … this will be a title fought over until the end.”