Roque can accompany Lewandowski on his debut with Barcelona: Xavi

Barcelona’s new signing Vitor Roque can play alongside Robert Lewandowski in the Brazilian forward’s possible debut against Las Palmas on Thursday, coach Xavi Hernandez said.

Roque, 18, joined Barça from Club Athletico Paranaense last week in a deal worth an initial €30 million ($32 million) with a further €31 million ($34 million) in possible add-ons. .

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Xavi was impressed with his first look at Roque and hopes to have the forward registered with LaLiga in time to face Las Palmas when the Spanish league resumes after a brief Christmas break.

“[Roque] He will be in the team and I hope he is. [registered]which I imagine is now just a matter of hours,” said Xavi in ​​the pre-match press conference.

“We’ll go step by step with him. He’s an 18-year-old kid, so we can’t burden him with responsibilities now because he needs time to adjust. But he’s ready.” [to play] and train well. He is professional and adapts quickly to his new environment, but we will be cautious.

“He can play with [Lewandowski] perfectly. He can play wide or as number 9. He will generate competition for all the forwards in the squad: Lewandowski, Ferran [Torres]Juan [Félix]Raphinha and Lamine [Yamal] – which is very positive.”

Roque scored 28 goals in 81 games for Athletico Paranaense, but this is his first step outside his native Brazil and Barça are aware that they will need help to settle in Spain.

“Have [football coordinator] bojan [Krkić] help him adapt,” Xavi explained. “Raphinha has also stepped up as a guide as a fellow Brazilian, while [Ronald] Araújo also speaks Portuguese.

“He’s young, but we’re going to help him. We’re having video sessions showing him exactly what we want from him on offense and defense. He’s going very well.”

Barca begin 2024 seven points behind joint leaders Real Madrid and Girona, which accelerated the need to bring in Roque in January rather than waiting until the summer.

The Catalan club have also revealed their intention to sign a midfielder this month after losing Gavi to injury for the rest of the season. The Girona player, Aleix García, is one of the objectives.

“Yes, I said [I like García]”But I haven’t spoken to him or any other player,” Xavi added about his desire to bring in more signings.

“I don’t know if we will be able to sign another player. We are evaluating the aspect of financial fair play and seeing what the club can do. I am in constant contact with the president [Joan Laporta] and [sporting director] Deco, so let’s see.”

Barça’s level at both ends of the field has dropped this season compared to last year, when it won LaLiga for the first time since 2019.

They have already conceded more goals (21) than in the entire 2022-23 campaign (20) in 20 fewer games and are underperforming their xG at the other end of the field at -7.38 (34 goals from an xG of 41,38).

This is a high figure in Europe’s top five leagues, but Xavi is more concerned about his team’s defence.

“The defense,” said Xavi when asked what worries him the most.

“Last year we were exceptional at the back and this year we are giving a lot away. Normally we score goals. And there are games in which we score two or three times and we don’t win.”

Barça’s rival this week Las Palmas has exceeded expectations on its return to the top flight. They have won seven of their 18 games and are 10th in the table, with Xavi calling them the “revelation of the season except Girona”.

It is directed by García Pimienta, who was fired as coach of Barça B in 2021 by Laporta after spending 15 years at the Catalan club in various positions.

“I haven’t had contact with him since then, but I have to thank him because I am here now because of his decision,” García Pimienta said of his relationship with Laporta before his first meeting with his former club.

“We will never know what would have happened [if I stayed]. Six months after leaving Barça I had the opportunity to come to Las Palmas. It’s been an unbeatable story ever since. “I feel loved here, this is the ideal place for me.”

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