It was a Spanish Super Cup final that Xavi had to win for a variety of reasons.
None more so than to prove that his emerging Barcelona side do indeed have what it takes to win the big games.
Right from the get-go, the Blaugranes seemed more up for the fight than a Real Madrid side that are still hanging on Barca’s coat tails in La Liga but haven’t really played really well for some while now.
Xavi’s decision to drop Raphinha and subsequently ensure that the midfield was completely under control turned out to be a masterstroke. As was leaving Jordi Alba on the bench in a game which the coach’s ex-team-mate could quite easily have got the nod, given its relative importance.
Los Blancos had no answer to the press and passing carousels that their opponents were executing wonderfully well, with Karim Benzema having just the one chance in the opening 45, a looping header back across Marc-Andre ter Stegen and wide of the post.
A back four of Araujo, Kounde, Christensen and Balde was rock solid again, allowing those players in front of them to express themselves to their fullest.
Both first-half goals were sheer poetry if you were supporting Barca, Gavi and Robert Lewandowski taking their chances with aplomb against a non-existent Real defence.
What was particularly pleasing to see was how well Barca kept their shape throughout the game. There have been occasions this season when the Catalans have got their passing game going, but haven’t stamped their authority on proceedings.
It seems that Xavi had drilled into each and every player that conceding ground/possession against Real wasn’t an option. The hunger and vigour was evident in the strength of tackle and pace of attack each time Barca poured forward.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side out-thought and out-fought Barca in the last Clasico, but on Sunday night in Saudi Arabia, the roles were very definitely reversed.
The flooding of the midfield with an industrious Gavi imperious on the night and moving forward into attack at will, ensured that Real were pegged back for the majority of the match.
Sergio Busquets’ simple game allowed Frenkie de Jong’s marauding runs up field to bear fruit, and Pedri to showcase his box of tricks.
Aside from the odd occasion, everything Barca did was pin sharp. Barely a pass was wasted, movement from every player was top class and any gaps were quickly closed.
In short, the young Blaugranes left everything out there on the pitch against a side that have often been lauded as Europe’s best but who were second best throughout in this one.
Bravo Xavi. Bravo.