Xavi lays down the challenge to team-mates

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez is well aware of the importance the next fortnight could prove in the final outcome of their season.

Xavi Hernandez

By FOX Sports staff

The Catalans take their 12 point lead atop La Liga to Granada on Saturday before a midweek UEFA Champions League last-16 first leg against AC Milan.

Following that, Barca host Sevilla in the league on Saturday before playing again on Tuesday in the second leg of an explosive Copa del Rey semi-final tie with Real Madrid. Just four days later - the two arch rivals square off once again but this time in La Liga.

And all this with manager Tito Vilanova still absent from the touchline as he continues to battle against cancer.

Hernandez remains in frequent contact with Vilanova via mobile phone, but he stressed that the players are fully committed to the work being carried out by assistant coach Jordi Roura as they look to finish the season strongly on multiple fronts.

"We're missing Tito but everything's carrying on the same," he told Sport.

He added: "We're feeling very comfortable and we're enjoying ourselves. What's most important is the team we have, the staff, the assistants, this generation of players and the good atmosphere.

"You can win or lose but you have to compete until the end."

Hernandez also accepted the tag of 'favourites' to progress in the Champions League past seven-time winners Milan, who have suffered elimination on the two previous occasions they have come up against Barca in the knockout phase.

"We accept we are the big favourites for the Champions League," he said.

"Having so much expected of us is a lot of pressure but at the same time we accept the challenge."

However, Xavi did have a word of caution for his team-mates ahead of their Copa del Rey second leg with Real Madrid at Camp Nou with the tie evenly poised at 1-1.

"Looking at the first leg, it's obvious that we should have scored one or two more goals. Against Real Madrid, if you don't kill off the game, they end up coming back," he said.

"We've got 90 minutes at home and we hope to build on the 1-1 draw in the Santiago Bernabeu."

Meanwhile, Barca striker David Villa has been discharged from hospital a day after he was re-admitted because of continued pain from kidney stones. He remains out of Saturday's La Liga game against Granada.

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