Xavi demands players do not get sloppy as Barca eye 15-point advantage

By Sports Desk April 09, 2023

Xavi warned Barcelona they cannot consider the league title won even if they beat Girona to open up a 15-point lead over Real Madrid on Monday.

Barca were crushed 4-0 by Madrid in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final in midweek, meaning the Blaugrana only have the LaLiga title left to play for.

They were already 12 points clear at the summit before this weekend, and Madrid's surprise 3-2 home defeat to Villarreal on Saturday gives Barca the opportunity to increase the gap.

No team has ever overturned such a deficit at this stage of a LaLiga season, so Barca's position looks very secure.

But Xavi was keen to stress the importance of not taking their lead for granted, with the former midfielder acknowledging his young squad does lack a degree of maturity.

"[The title] wouldn't be considered won, there would still be 10 [games] left," Xavi bluntly said in his pre-match press conference.

"When the league is won, we'll celebrate it. We have to win it. Tomorrow's game is a very good test for us after the elimination in the Copa.

"We depend on ourselves. Fifteen points would be a spectacular difference. It wouldn't be all done, but it would be a big difference, and winning the league would be extraordinary."

Despite Barca's massive lead in LaLiga, their performances in other competitions have left a lot to be desired.

While they did win the Supercopa de Espana, Barca dropped out of the Champions League at the group stage and into the Europa League – Manchester United deservedly eliminated them from that competition, and they were even more comprehensively dumped out of the Copa by Madrid.

But Xavi lent on comments once made by former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane as he suggested LaLiga success reflects stability.

Asked what incentives Barca players have, Xavi said: "Winning LaLiga. Winning LaLiga is the focus.

"We have won five Champions Leagues, and winning the Champions League is required of us, but winning LaLiga gives us stability.

"We are 12 points ahead and that means that we do things well. We value what we are doing. It's amazing, and gets us closer to winning LaLiga, which for us would be extraordinary."

As for the other competitions, Xavi reminded critics they are still during the early stages of a new era.

"We need time. We won the Supercopa, we are on track in LaLiga. In Europe, we have not competed well.

"We've signed players, there are youngsters [in the squad]... when we have been playing together for two or three years, we will not be under construction.

"We've won a title and we're on our way to another."

Related items

  • Bayer Leverkusen's 'dream season' down to self-belief – Alonso Bayer Leverkusen's 'dream season' down to self-belief – Alonso

    Bayer Leverkusen's Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double was the result of players keeping faith in the team throughout what turned into a dream season, so says Xabi Alonso.

    Leverkusen added the Pokal to their Bundesliga crown with a 1-0 victory over second-tier Kaiserslautern.

    Granit Xhaka scored the only goal of the game as he arrowed in from distance in the 16th minute.

    "In the end, to win like that meant we showed spirit, we fought for the fans for the club," said Alonso.

    "It is a huge success to win the double. We will remember this in the future."

    Leverkusen lost only one of 53 matches across all competitions this season, with that sole defeat coming in Wednesday's Europa League final against Atalanta, denying them a treble.

    "The most important thing was the belief of the team. They were ready to battle with 10 players and I am proud of that," Alonso said.

    "I need time to accept what happened this season. It was a dream season and to celebrate the last day like this here is special."

    Leverkusen will be looking to build on their success next season, with Alonso having snubbed the advances of Liverpool and Bayern Munich in order to stay at the club.

  • 'If they don't want me, I'll win trophies somewhere else' – Ten Hag bullish after Man Utd win FA Cup 'If they don't want me, I'll win trophies somewhere else' – Ten Hag bullish after Man Utd win FA Cup

    Erik ten Hag was in a feisty mood as he took on the press following Manchester United's FA Cup triumph, insisting he will win trophies anywhere he goes.

    It was reported on Friday that United had made the decision to sack Ten Hag regardless of whether or not he managed to claim a shock FA Cup win over Manchester City.

    Yet the Dutchman did just that at Wembley on Saturday, with first-half goals from Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo enough to claim a 2-1 victory.

    It is United's first FA Cup success since 2016. On that occasion, Ten Hag's compatriot, Louis van Gaal, was sacked after claiming the trophy.

    And Ten Hag was in no mood to be criticised when he told reporters: "We have to keep going, and I'm not satisfied with it, we have to do better and if they don't want me anymore, then I go will somewhere else to win trophies, because that is what I did my whole career.

    "That is what they always tell me."

    The former Ajax coach subsequently cut short his press conference when it was put to him by a journalist that United, who finished eighth in the Premier League, were still way behind where they should be.

    "Sorry to say this, but you don't have any knowledge about football, about managing a football team," Ten Hag said. "When you don't have the players available, then you can't perform, so simple as that.

    "And if that is the opinion, it is no problem. Then I go anywhere else and I go and keep winning trophies."

    Ten Hag, who waved to the Red Devils' fans at full-time, has now won two trophies with United, having taken them to an EFL Cup triumph last season.

    City manager Pep Guardiola said United must now make a decision.

    "They have to take a decision. He's a lovely person and an extraordinary manager," Guardiola said.

    "Winning the FA Cup is important for them like last season it was for us."

    Reflecting on City's loss, Guardiola said: "Disappointed today, it's normal teams can lose finals but this season has been extraordinary fighting for all the trophies in a good way.

    "We will rest and come back next season."

  • Real Madrid 0-0 Real Betis: Bore draw cannot ruin Kroos' goodbye Real Madrid 0-0 Real Betis: Bore draw cannot ruin Kroos' goodbye

    Toni Kroos bade an emotional farewell to Real Madrid fans at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu in a 0-0 draw with Real Betis.

    One of Madrid's most decorated players, Kroos confirmed this week that he will be retiring after Euro 2024.

    That made Saturday's meeting with Betis his final LaLiga match for Madrid, who eased to the title this season and will now look ahead to next week's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

    While that clash at Wembley will be Kroos' last in club football, he was able to say goodbye to the Madrid fans, with the match all about the 34-year-old, with nothing left to be decided in the standings.

    Kroos fought back tears as walked onto the pitch through a corridor formed by his team-mates, who were wearing his number eight jersey as the fans held up a giant flag with his face and the words "Thank you, legend" which covered the south stand.

    In the 87th minute, Kroos, who saw a free-kick saved by Betis' Fran Vieites, broke down in tears when, after receiving another standing ovation as he was substituted, he embraced his three children who were all crying on the sidelines.

    The game was stopped for several minutes as Kroos hugged each of his team-mates, as well as coach Carlo Ancelotti.

    Ferland Mendy and Vinicius Junior went closest to breaking the deadlock for Madrid, while Hector Bellerin missed from a free header for Betis and Thibaut Courtois pulled off some fine saves either side of the break.

    Data Debrief: Kroosing into retirement

    What a career Kroos has had, not only at Madrid, but at Bayern Munich beforehand.

    On his 306th LaLiga appearance, a tally bettered by only one other German (Bernd Schuster, with 316), Kroos bowed out in typical style, having the most touches (122), creating the most chances (three), playing the most passes (110) and completing the most passes (107) of any player on the pitch.

    Madrid might be in safe hands with Jude Bellingham, but Kroos will certainly be missed.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.