Xavi’s Barca pass fierce test
Xavi’s team faced a tricky test in the Europa League on Thursday, needing to win at Galatasaray, in a stadium well-known for it’s intimidating atmosphere, to progress to the quarter-finals.
Barca’s task was made even harder when Marcao headed the hosts in front after just 28 minutes. The goal had the home fans bouncing and left Barca needing to find a comeback to see off the challenge of the Turkish side.
And that’s exactly what they did. Barca showed great composure and character, kept playing and managed to pull level less than 10 minutes later with a brilliant goal from midfielder Pedri.
Pierre-Emerick Aubmeyang grabbed the winner just after the break, and Barca managed to see out the game fairly comfortably even despite late chaos when the frustrated crowd launched a series of objects onto the pitch.
Pedri stays ice cold in Gala cauldron
Barcelona’s comeback was initiated by one of the youngest players on the pitch as 19-year-old Pedri showed ice-cool composure to sit down not one but two defenders before slotting home the equalizer.
The goal was a real moment of magic from the Spain international which drew comparisons with a certain former team-mate which Pedri was quick to brush off after the game.
“No way!” he said to reporters after the match. “Messi has scored much better goals. It is crazy to compare me with Messi.”
It is, of course, crazy to compare anyone to Messi but Pedri still deserves praise, not just for his goal but his whole performance. The teenager also had a hand in the second goal and didn’t seem at all bothered by the fierce atmosphere.
Pedri’s game by numbers vs. Galatasaray:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 17, 2022
32 passes in final third
11 final third entries
9 duels won
8x possession won
6 touches in opp. box
2 shots on target
A superb display. pic.twitter.com/MlScQlcCOa
Pedri was also helped out by his captain. Sergio Busquets has had plenty of criticism this season but looks back to his best under Xavi and a proper functioning system.
The skipper pulled the strings against Galatasaray and also produced a couple of gorgeous through-balls that should have ended in goals, showing why he remains a key player for Xavi.
Auba has 7 in 7 for Barca
Another key player is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who made it seven goals in seven games for Barcelona with his winner against Galatasaray.
Xavi described the striker as a “gift from heaven” after the win over Osasuna and is probably running out of words to describe his free signing now.
Auba’s been at the Camp Nou for less than two months but is now only three goals behind top scorer Memphis Depay and has scored more than any other Barca player away from home.
The veteran also made a little bit of history on Thursday night.
1 - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has become in the first @FCBarcelona player to score in his first two European games on the road since Robert Fernández in the UEFA Cup 1986/87 in Lisbon against Sporting CP and in Uerdingen. Infallible.#UEL pic.twitter.com/mi11cA69Vd— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 17, 2022
Auba spoke out after the game too about why he thinks his move to Barcelona is working out so well. He said, “I am working a lot and the important thing is I am happy. When you are, you’re hungry to score goals and help the team however you can.”
Dest injury comes at a bad time
One of the few negatives from Thursday’s win was the sight of Sergino Dest hobbling off in the second half with what looked like a hamstring problem. Barca will be hoping the injury is not too serious as Dest has looked much improved in 2022 after a tough start to the season.
Xavi is also without Dani Alves for the Europa League which means any long-term injury to Dest would leave the Catalans a little short for the quarter-finals which take place on April 7 and April 14.
It’s not clear yet how serious the injury was, although Gavi was spotted giving Dest a piggy-back after the match on the way back to the team’s hotel.
Xavi did offer a brief update in his presser and said only that he hoped it was not too serious. We await an update on the 21-year-old.
Xavi to make changes for El Clasico?
Barcelona now head into another crunch game with the Catalans taking on Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday. It’s been a while since Barca have enjoyed a victory over Los Blancos but they will arrive in the capital unbeaten in 11 games.
There are likely to be changes for the game too. We already know that Dani Alves will be back in for Sergino Dest and there may be more changes to the backline.
It was a surprise to see Ronald Araujo on the bench against Galatasaray but you suspect he will be back in the starting XI on Sunday alongside Gerard Pique.
Xavi admitted he took Pique off against Galatasaray because he had some discomfort but it still seems likely the 35-year-old will start in central defence at the Bernabeu.
Ousmane Dembele is likely to get the nod too. The Frenchman arrived at half-time for the disappointing Adama Traore and helped Barca improve in the second half.
Adama found it tough against Gala, and was once again a little too predictable, while Dembele put in a pretty mature performance and helped Barca take control and see out the win.