Xavi Hernandez under pressure as Barcelona faces Valencia in a must-win 'final'

Xavi knows anything less than a win, and a convincing performance, against Valencia could cost him his job.

UEFA Champions League 2023/24Royal Antwerp FC v FC Barcelona
UEFA Champions League 2023/24Royal Antwerp FC v FC Barcelona / ANP/GettyImages

Usually, when a manager is talking about their next fixture as a "final," it means things aren't going well. Either the team is a result away from getting eliminated from a cup competition or being relegated.

Hearing Xavi Hernandez call Barcelona's upcoming match against Valencia a "final," however, isn't that far off from the truth.

With back-to-back losses against Girona and Royal Antwerp, both exposing Barcelona's defensive weaknesses and lack of cohesion in pressure, Xavi is under the microscope with little to no margin for error.

Simply put: were Barcelona to lose against Valencia, it may well spell the end of Xavi's tenure as Barcelona manager.

Xavi is well aware of the pressure he finds himself under but is confident in his ability to turn things around.

"I'm not thinking about resigning," Xavi said in his pre-match press conference. "I'm fine, very excited thinking that we can have a great season. I believe more than ever in the project and the players."

Outside of the possible effect on his job, Xavi recognizes that the Valencia fixture is a "final" because they cannot to drop any more points and fall further behind in the standings. Anything besides a win would make things "complicated," as Xavi said.

""For us it is a final because we need points. The problem with everything is that in the league we are not where we should be. The defeat against Madrid and Girona has weighed on us and we have to recover points.""

Xavi Hernandez

Frenkie de Jong is available and should feature as a starter. The Dutch midfielder missed the match against Royal Antwerp due to fever. Ronald Araujo should also be back. The Uruguayan traveled to Belgium but was not included in the matchday squad.

Valencia missing key starters

The onus will be on Xavi to motivate his team and employ the right tactics to get a result over Valencia. While it won't be an easy task, Barcelona won't be facing a full strength Valencia side.

Los Che will be without center-back Gabriel Paulista and one of their best players in Javi Guerra who will miss out after who were shown red cards in their last match. In addition, left-back Jose Gaya also won't be available. Those absences could prove to be significant.

Despite sitting 11th in LaLiga, Valencia are always a tricky opponent for Barcelona. Given how the Catalans have fared recently, any side is equipped to give them trouble.

What's plagued Barcelona recently is their slow starts where they give the ball away and then concede goal scoring opportunities in the first minute. They've been punished a few times now with early goals and a side low on confidence cannot afford to be trailing so early in the game.

This is the worst it has been for Xavi since he arrived in terms of the pressure on him and his job security. The press conference after the Champions League and his latest one was one of defiance, almost like a siege mentality. He called for his team to be united and block out the noise.

The quickest way to unite a locker room and to block out some of that noise coming from supporters and the media is to win. A win and a good performance would go a long way to easing some of that pressure and for Xavi to slowly rebuild his coaching credit.