Xavi expecting Barca's LaLiga title battle with Madrid to go the distance

By Sports Desk February 04, 2023

Xavi is expecting Barcelona's LaLiga title battle with Real Madrid to go down to the wire, despite his side opening up a five-point lead at the summit.

Barca, who last lifted the title in the 2018-19 campaign, have won 16 of their opening 19 league matches to reach the 50-point mark already.

It is only the sixth time Barca have hit that half-century milestone at this stage of a campaign, and they went on to lift the title in four of those previous five campaigns.

Reigning Spanish and European champions Madrid have struggled for consistency either side of the World Cup break, winning only half of their past eight league matches.

However, with the sides also paired together in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, Xavi insists Carlo Ancelotti's men can never be written off.

"I don't feel like the favourites, but rather just a candidate who can win the league," Xavi said at a pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's meeting with Sevilla.

"Winning the league is one of our goals. We're competing against the current LaLiga and Champions League winners and it's hard for us to fight for titles against a strong side.

"I still consider Madrid a strong side and we will have to fight for the league right until the last or penultimate matchday."

 

Barca have won nine of their past 10 league games, including all four this calendar year, and are unbeaten in their past 14 LaLiga meetings with 13th-place Sevilla.

Jorge Sampaoli's side have won back-to-back matches without conceding to ease their relegation worries, and Xavi says his side will treat Sevilla as they do any other opponent.

"Every game brings pressure. Every time we go out on the pitch we're told it's a key game; always it's the same thing," he said.

"I've also heard that how we perform in the Europa League will determine the success of our season.

"We're a club that is exposed to pressure and that's welcome. It is better to be fighting for these titles than to be relegated.

"Up next is a difficult opponent, despite where they are in the table. Sampaoli has brought back their strong and competitive side, making them strong defensively.

"We know they are a team that can complicate things for us, a team with a lot of experience. Tomorrow is another test and we have to pass it with all three points."

The seven goals conceded after 19 LaLiga games is Barca's lowest-ever tally and the second lowest of any team at this stage after Deportivo La Coruna in the 1993-94 season.

Xavi added: "The state of the team right now is sensational. The players are working hard and getting results. In general we're in a good moment, especially in defence.

"We're playing much better football now and are understanding certain situations better. We are on the right track, but we're also still under construction in this long process."

Related items

  • John Mousinho hails ‘remarkable achievement’ as Portsmouth clinch promotion John Mousinho hails ‘remarkable achievement’ as Portsmouth clinch promotion

    John Mousinho hailed Portsmouth’s “remarkable achievement” after the come-from-behind 3-2 win over Barnsley at Fratton Park secured the League One title and promotion to the Championship.

    Pompey looked to be missing their opportunity in front of their own fans when, needing one point to return to the second tier after a 12-year absence, they were 2-1 behind after Devante Cole and John McAtee struck either side of Kusini Yengi’s equaliser.

    But the hosts hit back in the final seven minutes with Colby Bishop scoring from the penalty spot and Conor Shaughnessy heading home the winner.

    Mousinho told BBC Radio Solent Sport: “I think once everything settles down it will sink in properly. I’ve never experienced anything like that, the last 15 minutes, it was absolutely incredible.

    “Even at 2-1 down, to get the momentum and the crowd behind us, I am just so proud of the boys. I’m genuinely just so pleased for everyone connected to the football club. They’ve gone through so much.

    “When we got it back to 3-2 I thought we have played so poor, but found a way to win somehow in a game where we really struggled. It really does sum up the boys.

    “A tough night, tough conditions, but they got the job done. It’s hard for me to sum it up, but I get what’s happened over the last 15 years at the club and how difficult it was, on the brink of liquidation, to come back and have a night like this is incredible to be involved in.

    “To be head coach, it is a privilege. Hopefully we can have a few more nights like this.

    “I never could have imagined this happening this quickly. This was obviously the goal at some point, but didn’t think it would happen with two games to go this season. It is a remarkable achievement. That is a serious effort to be crowned champions ahead of some of the big boys in this league as well.”

    Play-off chasing Barnsley, having lost three of their last four games, are four points above seventh-placed Lincoln.

    Boss Neill Collins told the club’s official website: “There are a lot of positives. But the biggest frustration is that all those positives didn’t add up to what I thought would be a deserved victory.

    “We perform like that, we’ll be fine. We’ll win games. It’s just the fine margins. For me, it’s the fine margins that have gone against us the past four or five games.

    “Tonight again, it’s some of our doing. But that’s what we need to concentrate on. That’s what the Football League is all about.”

  • Football rumours: Jadon Sancho open to Man Utd return if Erik ten Hag leaves Football rumours: Jadon Sancho open to Man Utd return if Erik ten Hag leaves

    What the papers say

    Jadon Sancho would be open to an attempt to relaunch his Manchester United career if manager Erik ten Hag leaves, The i reports.
    Sancho returned to former club Borussia Dortmund on loan in January.

    Liverpool are set to appoint David Woodfine as the assistant sporting director to work alongside Richard Hughes, with Woodfine returning to Anfield less than a year after leaving, according to the Liverpool Echo.

    The Sun writes that Manchester United will open talks with 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo over a new contract.

    Social media round-upPlayers to watch

    Arthur Okonkwo: The Athletic reports that Wrexham want to turn the 22-year-old’s loan from Arsenal into a permanent deal.

    Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Football Insider says Everton are keen to extend the 27-year-old striker’s contract, which is due to run out at the end of next season.

    Federico Chiesa: Juventus will listen to offers for the Italian player, who has been linked with Liverpool and Newcastle, after disagreements between the 26-year-old forward and Massimiliano Allegri, reports Tuttosport.

  • John Mousinho applauds ‘absolutely incredible’ Portsmouth after promotion John Mousinho applauds ‘absolutely incredible’ Portsmouth after promotion

    John Mousinho hailed Portsmouth’s “remarkable achievement” after the come-from-behind 3-2 win over Barnsley at Fratton Park secured the League One title and promotion to the Championship.

    Pompey looked to be missing their opportunity in front of their own fans when, needing one point to return to the second tier after a 12-year absence, they were 2-1 behind after Devante Cole and John McAtee struck either side of Kusini Yengi’s equaliser.

    But the hosts hit back in the final seven minutes with Colby Bishop scoring from the penalty spot and Conor Shaughnessy heading home the winner.

    Mousinho told BBC Radio Solent Sport: “I think once everything settles down it will sink in properly. I’ve never experienced anything like that, the last 15 minutes, it was absolutely incredible.

    “Even at 2-1 down, to get the momentum and the crowd behind us, I am just so proud of the boys. I’m genuinely just so pleased for everyone connected to the football club. They’ve gone through so much.

    “When we got it back to 3-2 I thought we have played so poor, but found a way to win somehow in a game where we really struggled. It really does sum up the boys.

    “A tough night, tough conditions, but they got the job done. It’s hard for me to sum it up, but I get what’s happened over the last 15 years at the club and how difficult it was, on the brink of liquidation, to come back and have a night like this is incredible to be involved in.

    “To be head coach, it is a privilege. Hopefully we can have a few more nights like this.

    “I never could have imagined this happening this quickly. This was obviously the goal at some point, but didn’t think it would happen with two games to go this season. It is a remarkable achievement. That is a serious effort to be crowned champions ahead of some of the big boys in this league as well.”

    Play-off chasing Barnsley, having lost three of their last four games, are four points above seventh-placed Lincoln.

    Boss Neill Collins told the club’s official website: “There are a lot of positives. But the biggest frustration is that all those positives didn’t add up to what I thought would be a deserved victory.

    “We perform like that, we’ll be fine. We’ll win games. It’s just the fine margins. For me, it’s the fine margins that have gone against us the past four or five games.

    “Tonight again, it’s some of our doing. But that’s what we need to concentrate on. That’s what the Football League is all about.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.