BARCELONA, Spain: Barcelona coach Xavi believes it is normal that defenders keep close tabs on Real Madrid winger Vinicius Junior, amid controversy over rough treatment toward the Brazilian.
Vinicius was brutally chopped down in Madrid’s 2-0 win over Valencia by Gabriel Paulista, who was sent off, and no player in the division has been fouled more this season.
“Players like Ousmane (Dembele), Neymar, when he was here, or Vinicius, these players who can beat a man, opponents are a lot more aggressive to them,” Xavi told a news conference.
“They get past their marker with ease, opponents give them more attention. Vinicius creates so much in attack, it’s normal that the opposition defense keeps a closer eye on him.
“There’s a referee and a refereeing committee, they have to do their job.”
Real Madrid face Real Mallorca on Saturday and the island club’s captain Antonio Raillo said earlier this week he would not use Vinicius as an example for his son to look up to.
Raillo had previously accused Vinicius of provoking and disrespecting opponents.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said the forward did not need any special preparation for the game, despite the bad blood with Raillo.
“Vinicius will prepare for the game as normal and will try to make the difference as he always does,” Ancelotti told a news conference Saturday.
“He is focused on what he has to do, I don’t have to talk about anything with him.”
Ancelotti said his own grandchildren were all fans of Vinicius.
“My grandchildren are all for Vini, youngsters like this type of player, who has so much quality, who is spectacular with the ball,” added the coach.
“They all have Vinicius shirts, that’s the only one they want.”
Barcelona will be without their own flying winger Dembele for the next few weeks after he suffered a thigh injury last weekend against Girona.
Xavi said the team would miss the winger’s ability to take on defenders but other players could help in that regard.
“Maybe we have less dribbling ability, Ousmane is the best at taking players on in the squad,” said Xavi.
“We lose that quality which Ousmane has, which draws two defenders, giving us numerical superiority on the other side.
“But Raphinha can do it too, so can Ansu (Fati), Ferran Torres, even (Alejandro) Balde, Sergi Roberto, (Jules) Kounde.”
Balde missed Barcelona’s training session on Saturday with a fever but Xavi said club doctors told him that the defender would be ready to face Sevilla on Sunday in La Liga.
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