Barcelona head into World Cup as leaders
Barcelona’s comeback win over Osasuna means Xavi’s side will head into the World Cup top of the pile in La Liga. The Catalans are now five points clear of Real Madrid, although that lead could be trimmed on Thursday when Los Blancos face Cadiz.
There’s no doubt that it’s a huge boost for Barca, and the nature of Tuesday’s win will offer believe, confidence, and optimism that the title can be returned to the Camp Nou this season.
WHAT! A! WIN! VAMOOOOOOSSS!!!! pic.twitter.com/CMDqQmq2go— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 8, 2022
Barca faced all sorts of adversity at El Sadar and overcame it all: conceding an early (contentious) goal, losing their top scorer to a red card, and seeing Pique sent off at half-time. Xavi admitted after the game Pique would have come on if he hadn’t been shown a red.
Tuesday’s match is the type of game Barca would not have won in recent years, and very much the sort of match on which titles are based. It’s far too early to talk about winning La Liga, but there’s no doubt that these are a very important three points indeed.
Redemption for Raphinha
Barca’s winner came from the head of Raphinha after a glorious pass from Frenkie de Jong, who ended the game playing at center-back. The Brazilian had to improvise a bit but did so brilliantly to net just his second La Liga goal for his new club.
“I had to think fast,” he told Barca TV after the match. “The goalkeeper thought he was going to control the ball and that’s why he came towards me, but I knew he was going to do that.”
Raphinha had spoken ahead of the game about how his lack of goals has been bothering him and how he’s found it difficult to adapt at Barcelona since his big-money summer move from Leeds United.
Tuesday’s late and crucial intervention should provide the Brazil international with a big boost which will hopefully help him thrive in the second half of the season.
Lewandowski loses the plot
It was a different story entirely for Robert Lewandowski who saw red in the first half. It’s just the second time the striker has been sent off in his long club career and he’ll be relieved it did not cost Barca the win.
The first yellow card was a little debatable but Lewandowski can have no complaints about the second. The Poland international had a look little before he clattered David Garcia and it was no surprise to see the red card brandished.
Lewandowski has been superb this season for Barca but his two bookings suggest he’s perhaps a little frustrated at the treatment he’s been receiving from defenders in Spain’s top flight.
The red card means Lewandowski will miss the derby against Espanyol when La Liga resumes but there are already reports he may face a longer spell on the sidelines for a gesture towards the match officials as he walked off the pitch.
Pique gets it off his chest
Lewandowski wasn’t the only one who saw red against Osasuna. Gerard Pique was also dismissed at the break after taking his complaints to notorious referee Gil Manzano a little too far.
The center-back went onto the pitch at the break and was spotted deep in conversation with the match official. The conversation continued for a while and ended with Pique getting it all off his chest. You suspect he’s wanted to do this for a little while.
Here’s the clean(ish) version of events:
Gerard Piqué to ref Gil Manzano last night, earning a half-time red card: "Did you see the corner you gave? You're the referee who's screwed us over the most, by a long way" https://t.co/6sLz4IA1iX— The Spanish Football Podcast (@tsf_podcast) November 9, 2022
Tuesday’s match was Pique’s last as a Barcelona player and it’s not the way he would have wanted to say goodbye, although the late winner means it’s a memorable result for the Catalans.
Yet Pique could have played a part in the game. Xavi admitted after the match that the defender would have come on because Andreas Christensen wasn’t ready to play 90 minutes and Eric Garcia was nursing a knock.
Xavi has a Busquets blindspot
Xavi has revealed that he had a “difficult” chat with Pique before the defender announced his retirement and you can’t help but wonder if he should have done the same with Sergio Busquets.
The captain was well off the pace against Osasuna, particularly early on, when he gave away the corner that led to the goal and then lost David Garcia from the kick and allowed the midfielder to open the scoring for the hosts.
Another bit of sloppy play allowed Chimy Avila a shot into the side-netting in what was a pretty nightmare start to the game by the midfielder. The fact there was a fresh, fit and hungry Gavi on the bench made Xavi’s decision to start Busquets once again a curious one.
Yet Xavi seems to have a bit of a blindspot when it comes to Busquets and seems unwilling to manage his game time.
We all know this could be Busquets’s final season at Barca, and it’s looking increasingly likely as the campaign progresses, but there can be no room for sentiment if Barca want to win titles.