Barcelona right-back Joao Cancelo has stated that he believes his side improved during their 1-1 draw with Rayo Vallecano at the weekend, but had plenty to work on. He was also clear that with such a young team, there was a learning process going on parallel to their ambitions to win matches.
“The last few games we didn’t play the way we wanted but against Rayo we had a better feeling, although it wasn’t a 10/10 game. We have to improve and important players like Frenkie have returned. The good thing about football is that three days later you have the opportunity to play a good game to gain confidence.”
He was asked if he felt that the side lacked a winning mentality – manager Xavi Hernandez had criticised his side’s mentality for starting too slowly against Rayo.
“I don’t think we lack a winning mentality, because I have always seen Barça win. We have a very young team and it doesn’t have the experience of the older ones. But that is learned year by year.”
Meanwhile before the international break, Xavi had admitted that he thought his side was being affected by criticism from the press. Cancelo did not believe it was affecting him.
“The criticism from the press does not affect me personally because I am already a veteran, I’m more of an adult, but we have very young players. We have to know how to deal with pressure because only then will we achieve great things.”
Cancelo was also reluctant to compare managers, having worked under Pep Guardiola before Xavi, who is regarded as a totem pole for Barcelona.
“All coaches have different ways of interpreting the game. I am very grateful to Pep because he made me a better player and I am very grateful to Xavi because things are going well for me and I am enjoying it a lot. At Barca I have extra motivation because this is the club that I have always wanted to be in and, if possible, win titles.”
In terms of his personal form, Cancelo did not subscribe to the idea that he was not playing well, but in general shifted the focus to the team as a whole.
“I started well and I don’t think I’m playing badly now. It’s not such a good moment for everyone but this is not resolved individually, but collectively.”
Barcelona face Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday night at 20:45 CEST, knowing that defeat or a draw would continue to augment concerns about their form, but also the general direction of the team.