Xavi: England are still one of the best teams in the world... but Spain can beat ANY rival
Published 22:20 09/11/11 By John Cross
Xavi is looking forward to Wembley with a swagger only possible in that rare breed of player with World Cup and European Championship winners’ medals.
The man at the centre of an incredible Barcelona team drawing comparisons to the best there have ever been is in no mood to underplay the talent Spain will bring to north-west London on Saturday.
However well England play – and he is not dismissing the threat of Fabio Capello’s makeshift line-up – they will not be good enough. And nor would any team.
“It’s not easy and we know we’re in London for a hard test against a very strong opponent,” said Xavi. “But I’m optimistic. We believe that with our style, we can beat any rival.”
Spain’s record over the last few years is undeniable, and Xavi has extra reason to be so confident at Wembley, the venue for Barca’s win over Manchester United in May’s Champions League final.
“For me, Wembley will always be special,” he said.
“I remember it with great affection and to return to this stadium will be beautiful.”
He insisted no game now is ever a meaningless friendly, because something special is always expected of Vicente Del Bosque’s team.
Xavi also made it clear Spain want to put on a show – and that they believe when they do they can beat anyone.
“This isn’t a simple friendly match but a prestige match” he said. “We’re the World Cup champions and England are big team. Our challenge is to offer a good image and to win.
“From our success at the World Cup we’re expected to show that same level in every match. That brings its own pressure.”
The midfielder, who has been at the Nou Camp since he was 11, is part of the group that has taken world football by storm for club and country. As well as the World Cup and Euro medals, he has on his CV six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns.
But he senses England are improving under Capello and, even without Wayne Rooney, will be difficult opponents next summer.
That is high praise from one of the world’s great players and also a sign England are still regarded as a threat despite their World Cup flop. Xavi believes no one would want to face England in the Euro group stages and claimed they had enough strength in depth to reach the knockout phase without Rooney.
“In any competition, in the World Cup or in the Euros, England are always among the favourites for the title,” said Xavi, who has won 103 caps.
“At Euro 2012 people think they have a chance to win. The English are difficult opponents. So Saturday will be a unique match for us. A hard test.
“I certainly wouldn’t want them in the first group phase. They are always dangerous and a hard to beat with their talented players and spirit.”
But England fans already fear the worst.
The likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Villa contribute to a daunting and seemingly unstoppable force. They are a team so talented the Premier League’s player of the moment, David Silva, is seen only as a fringe member of the Spain squad.
That is testament to Spain’s strength in depth but Xavi says the quality of the Premier League – and its strikers in particular – offer different alternatives in attack for Capello with Rooney missing.
“I know England have important players missing and that’s a setback for them,” he added. “But I don’t think it means they are less powerful. They are still one of the best teams in the world.
“Rooney’s absence is very important for England. But I watch the Premier League and it is the forwards who are the strongest players in England.
“Any problems any team have don’t come from the attack. The Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world for attacking players.
“Capello is a strategist, a very good tactician. With him in charge, England have improved defensively and it will not be easy to beat them at Wembley.”