Barcelona, amidst the turmoil, finds solace with Xavi. A resounding 4-2 victory in the derby against Espanyol helped the club clinch the La Liga title after 4 years.
1, On November 20, 2021, Xavi Hernandez made his debut as the head coach of Barcelona in a derby match against Espanyol at Camp Nou. The team featured Pique, Mingueza, Nico, and Ilias Akhomach in the starting lineup, while Ronald Araujo, Riqui Puig, Demir, Abde, and Coutinho came on as substitutes.
They fought to secure a spot in the Champions League and emerged victorious with a 1-0 win, courtesy of a successful penalty kick by Memphis Depay.
A year and a half later, also in the derby against Espanyol, this time at Cornella, Xavi’s team secured a 4-2 victory and became the champions of La Liga with a significantly different lineup.
There was only one similarity: the repetition of the 1-0 scoreline. This season, Barcelona achieved 11 victories with that same result, a remarkable number in the club’s history.
The derbies against Espanyol continue to serve as an emotional catalyst for both young players and Xavi himself.
“The best thing about becoming the champions of La Liga is defeating Espanyol,” was the message conveyed at the Joan Gamper Sports Center before Barcelona entered matchday 34.
In the first leg, Espanyol managed to secure a draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou thanks to a penalty kick by Joselu. This time, the “Blaugrana” had a special belief and motivation.
The spirit of the derby and the desire for glory was evident in every player, especially in the young Alejandro Balde. He played a role in the first two goals within 20 minutes: providing an excellent assist for Robert Lewandowski to open the scoring and then doubling the lead himself.
Barcelona, reliable and completely outshining a Real Madrid side lacking stability and heavily focused on the Champions League, proved unstoppable. No one could keep up with Xavi’s team, who clinched the title with four rounds remaining.
2, This achievement can be personalized in the roles of Ter Stegen, who kept a clean sheet in 25 out of 34 matches in the top Spanish football league, and Lewandowski, who contributed significantly with 21 goals, including a brace against Espanyol (with Kounde scoring the other goal; Javi Puado and Joselu scored for the home team). Besides, Benzema vs Lewandowski competing for the La Liga top scorer title this season
The creativity of Pedri, described by Xavi as someone who “can come up with any invention,” was also instrumental. Alongside that, there was the energy from Gavi and the strength of Araujo.
However, everyone points to Xavi as the common theme. The Camp Nou dressing room agrees that “the credit goes to the coach.” They say, “He unites the group and puts the team above any individual ego.”
The team leaders explain, “There is a collective winning mentality, both in favorable and difficult moments, as seen in Alba’s goal against Osasuna (in Matchday 33, he came on as a late substitute and scored the winning goal in the 85th minute). All are aligned in one direction under Xavi’s command.”
The coach’s task has two decisive elements: his knowledge of the club and the circumstances that allow him to act according to common sense, without the need for detailed instructions to avoid mistakes under high pressure in the post-Messi era.
“In the past, you couldn’t move a hair without looking at Messi’s face,” a source close to the Barcelona squad affirmed. “Xavi remembers the forgotten habits and quickly restores new habits: schedules, meals, uniforms, and the chaos has ended.”
The source emphasizes, “The demands for discipline are clearly understood, and they act as a family, with the leaders operating like any other player in the team; the clearest example is Lewandowski.”
Xavi was once a leader in the golden era with Messi. Now, he is beginning to succeed in managing the collective in the post-” La Pulga” phase.
3, At the beginning of the season, Barcelona suffered a comprehensive 1-3 defeat to Real Madrid in the “El Clasico,” which led to doubts about the style of play pursued by Xavi.
Xavi was frustrated. He lacked the suitable players to develop the beautiful style of football that Barcelona fans had been accustomed to for many years.
The change was necessary, and as a result, there were continuous 1-0 results. Although there were still issues in Europe, being eliminated from the UEFA competitions for two years, the team made a significant leap in quality.
Three months after losing to Real Madrid, Barcelona won another “El Clasico” with a 3-1 scoreline and claimed the Spanish Super Cup. It was an important stepping stone for the team to continue winning with a 2-1 victory in La Liga and marked a turning point in the title race.
Although Barcelona was out of the Europa League vs Champions League, in the domestic league, no team was as solid as Barcelona, conceding only 13 goals. Particularly at their home ground, Camp Nou, the club only conceded 2 goals (against Real Madrid and Espanyol).
“We are still a team in the making,” emphasized Xavi, vividly recalling Frank Rijkaard’s era two decades ago. Barcelona was in turmoil and gradually built up by the Dutch manager, eventually winning La Liga in 2005 and the Champions League in 2006 in Paris.
Rijkaard made several changes to create balance in the squad, with Ronaldinho finding a pivotal role. Those victories laid the foundation for the revolution that Pep Guardiola took to the global summit in 2008.
“What I dream of is Barcelona winning and achieving titles,” Xavi responded when compared to Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola, or Johan Cruyff.
“My ego is not that big; I am content with what I have,” Xavi explained. “I don’t want to surpass Pep, Johan, or anyone else; quite the opposite. I have been nurtured by them, their disciple. My dream is to win titles together with Barcelona.”
The La Liga title is a turning point, now preparing for the conquest of the Champions League. Sergio Busquets has decided to depart, and Xavi is eagerly hoping for Messi’s return to develop the European project together.
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