"They have surprised many by being so high in the standings, but for us they are not a surprise," Xavi said in the pre-game news conference on Saturday.
"They are a dynamic team with a great coach in Míchel. Their system is similar to ours, they want the ball and they want to press you. On top of that, they are playing with tremendous confidence.
"They are a direct rival [for the title] and they can aspire to win the league, against all the predictions. I like them. They are brave and they play with no fear. Míchel could coach a big club [like Barça]."
Girona have lost just once in 15 league games this season -- at home to Real Madrid -- and have taken 19 points from losing positions, more than any other side in Europe's top five leagues.
Preseason talk of survival has turned into targeting European football next season, with Míchel aware the hype will move on to another level if his side beat Barça this weekend.
"The current objective is to qualify for Europe," the Girona coach said in a news conference. "We have 38 points and we're one win away from that 40-point safety mark we talk of.
"If we beat Barça, we will enter another dimension, it would leave them seven points back and would have big repercussions for everyone.
"We would have to maintain our level, but it's a game that, if we win and are better than Barça, this squad could take a huge leap forward in terms of quality.
"But I also think that losing doesn't mean we won't fight for things because small details will mark the game."
Defender Eric García, though, will be available for selection because Barça did not have time to put a clause in the loan deal preventing him from facing them.
"I think it's normal that you are not permitted to play against your club -- look at João Félix [for Barça] last week and imagine how Atlético felt," Xavi said.
"Eric doesn't have the same clause as [Torre] because it was a late deal and there was not time to put in. I think it's illogical, Eric will be extra motivated."
Barça, meanwhile, will once again be without goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, who underwent a surgical procedure on a back injury earlier this week.
However, despite losing the goalkeeper for the foreseeable future, Xavi said Barça will not sign a replacement.
"We have complete faith in Iñaki Peña," the Barça boss said.
Joan Laporta, the club's president, confirmed on Saturday that sporting director Deco will start negotiations with Atlético and City soon, two clubs "we have a good relationship with."
"If that's what the president says, it's how it is," Xavi said of Laporta's comments. "He has not said anything we don't know.
"We are happy with them. They have both adapted well and are playing at a high level. We would like to count on them beyond this season."