Former Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta has told ESPN that his ex-side “have the team to win the Clasico and LaLiga” despite a troubled start to the season that has left them seventh in the league table and bottom of their Champions League group.
Barca beat Valencia 3-1 in LaLiga on Sunday to move two points behind rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid and five points off leaders Real Sociedad, ahead of hosting Los Blancos in El Clasico at Camp Nou this weekend.
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The team has been buoyed by the returns from injury of Ansu Fati — who scored and won a penalty against Valencia — and Sergio Aguero, as well as the performances of youngsters such as Gavi.
“I think Barca fans are always optimistic, even more so for the Clasico,” Iniesta told ESPN. “They will be looking forward to the game, their team playing well and winning.
“Barca have the team to win the Clasico and LaLiga. I hope they play well and get the three points.”
Barca coach Ronald Koeman came under intense pressure after the team began their Champions League campaign with a 3-0 home drubbing to Bayern Munich that was followed by LaLiga draws with Granada and Cadiz.
An embarrassing 3-0 loss at Benfica put Koeman on the brink, before president Joan Laporta opted to back the manager after, according to ESPN sources, he failed to find a suitable alternative.
“As an ex-Barcelona player it is difficult for me to analyse it, because on the outside you often hear things that aren’t the reality,” Iniesta told ESPN. “If I was on the inside, I could speak much more about it.
“From here, and looking at the last few years, it’s not an easy situation. New players are coming in, young players, players from elsewhere, other players have left. It’s never easy. We all have to have faith that they will end up following the right line.”
Iniesta said Koeman has done “many things” well and that “he didn’t arrive at an easy moment for him or the club.”
The coach has put his faith in Barca’s homegrown talent in recent weeks, with Fati, 18, and Gavi, 17, joined by 19-year-old Nico Gonzalez and 18-year-old Yusif Demir in the team.
Iniesta, now 37 and playing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe, compared the situation to when he made his debut in 2003 — when Barca were in crisis on and off the pitch after four years without a trophy — and warned that too much pressure should not be put on this new generation.
“When I was promoted to the first team, it was tough,” Iniesta said. “I tell the youngsters coming through to take advantage of the opportunity.
“We have to value the faith being shown in these young guys… The only thing we should not do is think that 17 or 18-year-olds can be the solution during these times.
“We cannot put the responsibility on them to carry the team. They have to accompany the team little by little, gaining prominence and becoming important.”