(Reuters) - Barcelona striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is 100% ready to play in their Europa League knockout tie game against Italy’s Napoli, manager Xavi Hernandez said on Wednesday.
The Gabon international moved to Barcelona on a free transfer last month after terminating his contract with English Premier League club Arsenal.
“He’s good, and he trains really well. He’s 100% ready. He’s a player who can make a difference, he works well in spaces and makes good runs into the area,” Xavi told reporters ahead of the home game against Napoli.
“He’s put in performances in recent years that have been very good. I’m very happy with him, he’s working positively in our group, and he’s very professional.”
The Spaniard also dismissed speculation that he would not use Ousmane Dembele in home games, after the France international was greeted with a chorus of boos on his return to the squad in a LaLiga win over Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.
“Dembele playing will not depend on whether we’re at home or away,” Xavi said. “He played well against Espanyol, he played with conviction.
“He will play according to what we are looking for and of course he will be an important player until the end of the season, he has helped us a lot. He is just one more player in the team and we will call on him when we need him.”
Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League after finishing third in their group behind Bayern Munich and Benfica, and Xavi said the club’s ambition was to get right back into Europe’s top competition.
“We would like to be in the Champions League but we didn’t do the job so we have to compete in the Europa League,” Xavi said.
“At the end of the day, the Europa League is a route back to the Champions League if you win it. That’s extra motivation for us.
“Of course, it won’t be easy (to win). The Europa League is a great competition, one of the best. It’s not the best, but the last few champions have been great teams. Villarreal and Sevilla are good teams.”