Xavi salutes 'superior' Barcelona as Clasico win brings LaLiga glory ever closer

By Sports Desk March 19, 2023

Xavi described Barcelona's 2-1 win over Clasico rivals Real Madrid as "a very important victory for us" as his team roared 12 points clear at the top of LaLiga.

A first league title since 2018-19 is within Barcelona's grasp now, with a dozen matchdays remaining and no end in sight to their dominance.

A 22nd win from 26 games in this season's championship was hard-earned at Camp Nou, where a freak own goal from Ronald Araujo gave Madrid a ninth-minute lead.

Barcelona's equaliser could hardly have been better timed, coming just before half-time from Sergi Roberto, who was given the nod to start in midfield ahead of Franck Kessie.

That gave Barcelona a huge lift to take into the interval and they struck at the death in the second half too, with substitute Kessie the man to send the home support wild in stoppage time.

Xavi celebrated on the touchline, all too aware of that goal's significance. Barring a staggering implosion over the remaining weeks of the season, Xavi's Barcelona will be champions in his first full season at the helm, dethroning their great rivals from Madrid.

"We dominated, we generated more chances," Xavi said. "I am leaving satisfied. The team emptied itself and worked in defence and attack. It is a very important victory for us. I think we have been good."

He was right about the chances, with Barcelona leading that count 17-11 over the course of the game, and the expected goals final reckoning, measuring the quality of chances and likelihood of scoring, was also firmly in their favour by a margin of 1.64 to 0.58.

Robert Lewandowski missed what was determined to be the best chance of the game, with his volley in the 67th minute flying over Thibaut Courtois' goal. That was given an xG rating of 0.377.

 

Madrid also had a goal chalked off after Marco Asensio beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the 81st minute but was ruled offside after a VAR check.

"I think we had more control," Xavi said. "I think we have been superior in general."

His team had 54 per cent of possession, having had just 35.2 per cent in their 1-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey at the start of March.

Sergi Roberto was named man of the match, and the goal justified his selection, with the experienced one-club man trusted for the big occasion. He featured at right-back last week, but with Araujo returning from suspension was handed a role further upfield, with Barcelona packing their midfield.

Former Milan star Kessie proved he can thrive in such a big occasion, too, with his intervention off the bench, and Xavi could hardly have been more delighted.

"I had doubts until the last moment between Sergi and Franck. In the end it turned out very well because they both scored," Xavi said.

Related items

  • Pochettino leaves Chelsea after one season Pochettino leaves Chelsea after one season

    Mauricio Pochettino will leave Chelsea by mutual consent after one season in charge, the club announced on Tuesday.

    Despite a poor start to the season, Pochettino led Chelsea to a sixth-place finish, confirming a European place - an improvement on their 12th-place finish in 2022-23.

    He also led them to the EFL Cup final and the semi-final of the FA Cup.

    Speculation surrounded Pochettino's position during the latter stages of the Premier League campaign, though he remained tight-lipped about his future.

    The Argentinian had one year left on his contract but now leaves the club with immediate effect.

    In a club statement, Pochettino said: "Thank you to the Chelsea ownership group and Sporting Directors for the opportunity to be part of this football club's history.

    "The club is now well positioned to keep moving forward in the Premier League and Europe in the years to come."

    Sporting Directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said: "On behalf of everyone at Chelsea, we would like to express our gratitude to Mauricio for his service this season.

    "He will be welcome back to Stamford Bridge any time, and we wish him all the very best in his future coaching career."

     

  • Alonso wants to write more history with Leverkusen in Europa League final Alonso wants to write more history with Leverkusen in Europa League final

    Xabi Alonso is hopeful that his Bayer Leverkusen side can make more history in their Europa League final against Atalanta on Wednesday.

    Leverkusen became the first side in Bundesliga history to go unbeaten in a single season on their way to the top-flight title, and across all competitions, they have not lost any of their last 51 matches.

    Now, they have the opportunity to complete an unbeaten treble if they can get past Atalanta before taking on Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal on Saturday.

    Only three sides have previously won the competition without losing a game – Chelsea in 2018-19, Villarreal in 2020-21 and Eintracht Frankfurt in 2021-22, with Leverkusen looking to be added to that list.

    Alonso is taking charge of his first European final as a manager and highlights the ambition the club have to do something significant.

    "It would mean a lot, a lot to me [to win a European trophy]," he told UEFA. "To be able to share it with the people from the club, with the fans.

    "You see what it meant when we won the Bundesliga. To be able to win a European title after so many years since we won [the UEFA Cup in 1988] would be historic, and we want to do that, to have a historic season.

    "It would be something written in golden letters, not only in the history of our club but probably all European football. I hope we can."

    Like his counterpart, Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini is also taking charge of a European final for the first time in his career.

    The Italian side clinched a top-five finish in Serie A with their win over Lecce on Saturday and are looking to win their first major trophy in 61 years.

    Looking back on the season, Gasperini says he is proud of the work his side have done to make it through to the club's first European final.

    "It feels good," Gasperini said. "It's a great achievement and source of satisfaction, achieved with a really good season from this whole team.

    "Is it the highest point of my career? Yes, in terms of accomplishment and prestige, absolutely. In terms of gratification, fortunately, I've had quite a few, although perhaps not on the same level.

    "This team always wanted it. Sometimes, you get teams who are good technically but lacking in determination and hunger.

    "From the start, from the group stage, since we played in Lisbon, in a group where we were not the favourites – Sporting [CP] were the favourites – we played great matches against strong opponents. Of course, winning at Anfield boosted our confidence even more."

  • Southgate envisages central role for 'brilliant' Foden at Euro 2024 Southgate envisages central role for 'brilliant' Foden at Euro 2024

    Gareth Southgate believes Phil Foden's starting position is less important than the spaces he is allowed to attack, pledging to find a way of letting him operate centrally at Euro 2024.

    Foden was included in England's 33-man preliminary squad on Tuesday, and he is expected to be among the first names on the teamsheet after enjoying a fine campaign.

    Foden was named Premier League Player of the Season as he helped Manchester City win an unprecedented fourth straight title, scoring 19 goals and adding seven assists.

    Only three players in the league bettered Foden's goal tally, while he also ranked seventh in the division for chances created (73) and fourth for possession won in the final third (35 times).

    Foden scored two excellent goals as City clinched the title with a 3-1 final-day win over West Ham, drifting infield from the right to find space between the lines and in the penalty area.

    While the presence of Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham and Arsenal's Bukayo Saka has led many to conclude Foden will be stationed on the left in Germany, Southgate is aware of the need to grant him positional freedom.

    "Phil has played off the right, off the left, the key is where he ends up, not his starting position," Southgate said at a press conference on Tuesday.

    "He plays on the left with City, sometimes he stays wide, but he's allowed to drift, and it has always been the same with us. He's allowed to drift. 

    "Then there's where a player has to defend. Jude has played as a 10 all season, and sometimes he has defended on the left for Real Madrid. 

    "It's about where these players arrive and where you allow them to drift, that's the key. I think if you spoke to all of our players, we never pin them to a touchline, that's not how we work so there is that freedom."

    Foden produced a series of talismanic displays for City in the run-in, scoring match-winning hat-tricks against Brentford and Aston Villa and masterminding a vital comeback against Manchester United with two goals in March.

    The 23-year-old stepped up while players like Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland were sidelined through injury, and Southgate has been impressed by his ability to shoulder that responsibility.

    "It's obvious the brilliant season Phil has had, how he stepped up in big games not only when big players have been out but when he's been playing alongside them as well," Southgate added.

    "You want him in central areas as you do one or two others, so we have to find the best way of making that happen."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.