Xavi targets second after 'titanic effort' to secure Champions League place

By Sports Desk May 07, 2022

Xavi is not ready to welcome the end of Barcelona's season despite the relief of clinching Champions League qualification on Saturday.

The Blaugrana beat Real Betis 2-1 in Seville to ensure the fifth-placed side can no longer catch them in second.

Ansu Fati's scuffed shot broke the deadlock, before ex-Barca defender Marc Bartra responded with a similarly untidy header.

It fell to Jordi Alba to win the match and secure Barca's top-four place with a sublime 94th-minute volley.

Coach Xavi saluted his side for the effort they put in to recover from a poor start to the season, having won every match they have played against top-10 opposition in 2022.

But he still has his sights set on tying up second place.

"We've taken a weight off our shoulders," Xavi said. "It could have been a more complicated and difficult season.

"The team has competed a lot. We have not played excellently in many games; in others, yes, but we have a winning soul and competitive character.

"We beat the top 10 in this second round of the season. It's evidence that we have to play better. It has to be analysed, but we have made a titanic effort from November to here.

"We will be in the Champions League, the competition we deserve. Now we want to be second."

However, Xavi added this achievement was the "minimum required" at Camp Nou, saying: "I want to compete for titles. We can't miss another year not being competitive."

The former Barca midfielder will hope Fati can have a big role to play in an improved 2022-23 campaign, having been limited to 12 appearances – in which he has still scored six goals – due to injuries this term.

Xavi hailed Fati as his "difference-maker", scoring 75 seconds after his introduction from the bench, and said: "It's a very good feeling to have him back."

Related items

  • Blow for Lampard as Everton confirm Godfrey out for 'around three months' Blow for Lampard as Everton confirm Godfrey out for 'around three months'

    Frank Lampard has been dealt a blow as Everton have confirmed Ben Godfrey will be out for "around three months".

    Godfrey was stretchered off just 18 minutes into the new Premier League season after a challenge with Chelsea's Kai Havertz at Goodison Park on Saturday.

    The Toffees went on to lose 1-0, with Jorginho scoring the only goal from the penalty spot, but Lampard's main concern after the game was his mounting injury list, as Yerry Mina also picked up a knock.

    Everton on Monday revealed that Godfrey had undergone successful surgery on a fractured fibula, but could not yet provide a length of absence for Mina, who suffered an ankle ligament injury.

    "Ben Godfrey underwent successful surgery this morning on the fractured fibula he sustained during Saturday's Premier League opener against Chelsea at Goodison Park," the statement read.

    "The defender will now begin rehabilitation at Finch Farm under the care of the club's medical team and is expected to be out for around three months.

    "Meanwhile, Yerry Mina sustained an ankle ligament injury in the second half of Saturday's match and will see a specialist this week to discover the full extent of the problem before undergoing treatment at Finch Farm."

    Lampard could be getting a defensive reinforcement before the trip to Aston Villa this weekend, with Conor Coady reportedly close to signing on a loan from Wolves.

  • Former Real Madrid star Isco completes Sevilla move Former Real Madrid star Isco completes Sevilla move

    Sevilla have completed the signing of Isco on a free transfer after Spain midfielder left Real Madrid at the end of last season.

    Isco spent nine years with Madrid, winning three La Liga titles and five Champions Leagues in his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    However, having fallen out of favour, Isco left following the expiration of his contract and Sevilla on Sunday revealed they had reached an agreement in principle to sign the playmaker.

    The LaLiga club on Monday confirmed Isco has passed his medical, and will be presented at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium at 9pm local time on Wednesday.

    He becomes the club's third signing of the transfer window after Marcao joined from Galatasaray and Alex Telles arrived on loan from Manchester United.

    Isco played under Julen Lopetegui briefly at Madrid, but particularly thrived under him with the national team, being involved in 11 goals in 14 games for Spain in all competitions while the Sevilla coach was in charge of La Roja (nine goals, two assists), only bettered by David Silva (17 – 11 goals, six assists).

  • Azpilicueta felt 'responsibility to stay' at Chelsea 'home' after sanctions Azpilicueta felt 'responsibility to stay' at Chelsea 'home' after sanctions

    Cesar Azpilicueta has admitted he came close to leaving Chelsea for Barcelona last season, but that he ultimately felt a responsibility to remain "in my home".

    The Blues skipper penned a new two-year contract extension earlier this month, to end weeks of speculation over his future, after the club triggered a 12-month extension clause before his prior deal expired amid the off-season.

    The Spaniard completed a sweep of major honours at Stamford Bridge with the Club World Cup in February, and says that he felt ready to consider a move back to his home country in the aftermath.

    But the subsequent sanctions imposed against owner Roman Abramovich amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine saw him have a change of heart, with a desire to stand by the team as they transitioned to the Todd Boehly era.

    "Yes the conversations were there [with Barcelona]," Azpilicueta was quoted by The Guardian. "After the Club World Cup, where I became the only player to ever win every trophy, I felt it was the time to go back.

    "But then everything happened with this club. I wanted to stay committed to the club. I never did anything against my club.

    "We had private conversations where I said everything. We had players leaving, and I have never been in a transfer market situation in 10 years. It was different. For a period I was a free agent.

    "Who knows what could have happened in that period. I decided to stay silent because I think there was already enough noise around me. I didn’t want to make it worse because I wanted to stay focused on my game.

    "I had a meeting with the new owners. They wanted me to stay here to lead the team both on and off the pitch. It’s a big thank you to them. They were very honest and transparent from the first day.

    "I felt a responsibility to stay here in my home. My family are happy here. We have a new project with new players and youngsters coming in. I feel right and ready to look forward."

    Azpilicueta started Chelsea's first game of the new Premier League season on Saturday, as Thomas Tuchel's side ran out 1-0 victors against Everton.

    The Blues next face Tottenham, in an early test of their top four credentials, on Sunday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.