Barcelona must make the most of lead over Madrid, Xavi Hernandez says
Midfielder stokes up atmosphere ahead of first clash of season with Real Madrid
Agence France-Presse in Madrid
Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez feels their eight-point lead over Real Madrid has piled the pressure on their bitter rivals ahead of La Liga's first Clasico of the season a little over a week away.
The Catalan side have not always been at their best and have looked vulnerable at the back but they now travel to Sevilla today looking for their sixth successive win, compared to only two victories for Madrid.
While his teammates have looked to play down the lead, Xavi preferred to give importance to the gap and further stoke up the atmosphere before they go head-to-head on October 7.
"Eight points is a lead that I like," he said. "We now have a difficult away game against a strong Sevilla team but eight points are a lot and Real cannot make more mistakes.
"It is good to see us in this position and Madrid have problems. Last year they went 10 points ahead and it was as though we had lost the league, and now it is still very early on but we need to make the most of it."
Xavi also praised new coach Tito Vilanova, who took over from Pep Guardiola in the summer. "Tito isn't someone who jokes about, he is a football man and speaks his mind. He has a lot of personality which I knew he had but it was hidden to an extent under Pep when he didn't speak as much, but he is a leader."
The main worry for Barca is their backline with Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Adriano injured while there is a lack of strength in depth, but former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song has come in and done well at centre-half.
Real Madrid play Deportivo tomorrow looking to put their bad start to the campaign behind them.
A Radamel Falcao-inspired Atletico Madrid are the most likely candidates to challenge the top two this season and they face a struggling Espanyol side who have just one point and are joint bottom with Osasuna, who are at home to Levante.
Malaga have also started well and although not playing at their best held on for a 0-0 draw last weekend against an improving Athletic Bilbao side. Malaga now take on Real Betis and Athletic are away to Real Sociedad.