PSG’s Luis Enrique: I represent Barcelona style more than Xavi

Paris Saint-Germain coach Luis Enrique said he embodies Barcelona‘s style of football better than counterpart Xavi Hernández ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal against his former team.

Luis Enrique, 53, spent eight years at Barça as a player and another three as manager — leading them to a treble in 2015 — but he will be in the opposite dugout this week for the first time since leaving the Catalan club in 2017.

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“Without any doubt, I do,” he told his pre-game news conference when asked whether he or Barça boss Xavi better represent the Blaugrana’s philosophy, which is based on possession, pressing, positioning and attacking.

“Look at the data: ball possession, goal scoring chances created, the high press, trophies. Look at it. It’s not an opinion. The numbers and figures are there. It’s not debatable. Others may think differently, but there are no doubts.”

Luis Enrique played alongside Xavi at Barça and later coached him, but he said that is unlikely to give PSG an advantage heading into the first leg at the Parc des Princes this week.

“I don’t know Xavi at all as a coach,” Luis Enrique said.

“I only know him as a player. I know the club very well, but not Xavi the coach.

“I know Barcelona really well and I know the players, but I don’t know if that could be an advantage or not. It could be the opposite.

“The club means a lot to me emotionally because of the experiences I had there, but I am also a professional and I have to think about my job and my team.

“It will be special for me, but I am more than ready to give my all for PSG. I am looking forward to the tie and believe I’m capable of bringing trophies to this club.”

Responding to Luis Enrique’s comments at his media availability later in the day, Xavi said that there are four coaches in the Champions League quarterfinals with Barcelona DNA. Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta both came through Barça’s youth system, with Guardiola also leading the club to two Champions League titles as a coach.

“I have a good relationship with Luis Enrique and I have a lot of respect for him,” Xavi said. “He is one of best coaches in world and he has a team made to win the Champions League, or at least that is the intention. PSG are a really tough opponent.

“We both look for the same thing [as coaches] and both have Barça DNA. We can boast about the fact that Luis Enrique has Barça DNA, as do Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta and me. That is four coaches in the Champions League quarterfinals with Barça DNA. We were all created with this DNA. We’re talking about a new group of managers that are midfielders and I think the Barça philosophy is key.

“I think Luis Enrique and I will look for the same thing, to press high, to have the ball and to play from the back. From there, it’s the job of the players, but we both look for the same [as coaches] and identify with same style of football.”

PSG have never won the Champions League, while Barça have won it on five occasions. Their last title came under Luis Enrique in 2015.

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The two teams last met in the competition in 2021 in the round of 16, when a hat trick from Kylian Mbappé at Camp Nou helped PSG secure a 5-2 aggregate victory.

Xavi, though, insisted that PSG’s threat is about more than just Mbappé.

“Mbappé, [Ousmane] Dembele, [Randal] Kolo Muani, Vitinha .. all the PSG team,” he said. “Obviously the goal scorer is Mbappé. We will have to be better than ever defensively. We will have to be alert and aggressive because in transition PSG are one of if not the best team in the world in that phase of the game.”

With Dembele having left Barcelona for PSG last summer, Xavi claimed that the French champions should be considered favourites to progress to the semifinals.

“I hold Dembele in high regard,” Xavi said. “It was his decision to come here to Paris, it was a challenge for him. That’s why I think they are favourites, because they took one of best players from us last season. They are the favourites.

“They have spent much more than us. They are a team made to win the Champions League, that’s their objective.”

PSG will be without right-back Achraf Hakimi for the first leg due to suspension, while Barça remain without the injured Gavi and Alejandro Balde.

However, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri have both travelled with the squad and will be in contention to play in the French capital if they come through Tuesday’s training session without any problems.

The second leg will be played in Barcelona next Tuesday, with the winners facing either Atlético Madrid or Borussia Dortmund in the semifinal.