Xavi wins first trophy in style
Xavi won his first trophy as Barcelona coach in some style as the Catalans put on a show and destroyed Real Madrid 3-1 in Saudi Arabia.
The coach readily admitted after the game he was more pleased with his team’s performance than the result and is hoping this is the start of something big.
Certainly, Barca won’t go far wrong if they keep playing like this. Xavi went with four midfielders again and saw his team take complete control of the game.
This time they were also able to kill the game off too. Gavi got things started, Robert Lewandowski scored his customary goal and Pedri put the cherry on top.
The Super Cup is obviously not Barca’s top priority his season but lifting a trophy will provide a morale boost and relieve some of the pressure. It’s also Barca’s first trophy post-Lionel Messi - could that prove to be a turning point?
Gavi and Lewandowski provide the punch
Barcelona’s win was inspired by Gavi and Robert Lewandowski who seem to be developing something special together at the Camp Nou. There have been reports already that the two players are becoming close friends and it certainly seems that way on the pitch.
The first goal came when Lewandowski teed up Gavi to open the scoring, and the second came with the roles reversed. This time it was the teenager who picked out the striker to double Barca’s lead.
Lewandowski admitted after the game that he had spoken to his young team-mate ahead of kick-off and offered some key advice. “Before the match I told Gavi to stay close to me. I knew that we could do good things together,” he revealed.
Gavi went on to assist Pedri’s third and walk off with the man of the match award. It was fully deserved too as the 18-year-old showed again the heart and desire that makes him such a joy to watch and backed it up with a coolly-taken goal and two assists. Wonderful.
Is this Barcelona’s new Gala XI?
Xavi deployed a four-man midfield again after seeing the system come up with a 1-0 win over Atletico. However, this time Barca were much more convincing and simply overwhelmed Los Blancos with Pedri, Gavi, Busquets, and Frenkie de Jong all proving key.
Busquets rolled back the years with the type of display we simply haven’t seen enough of recently. Credit must also go to De Jong who was pretty flawless throughout and complemented the skipper perfectly.
Barcelona completed 567 passes tonight against Real Madrid. Of those passes, 271 were completed by:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 15, 2023
Busquets - 104
De Jong - 71
Pedri - 53
In complete control. pic.twitter.com/CBZb4AOslL
Busquets was at the heart of everything and involved in two goals. The captain won the ball back high up the pitch ahead of Gavi’s opening strike and poked the ball through to De Jong to send Gavi scampering away for the second.
Up front there was Lewandowski and Ousmane Dembele causing all sorts of danger with the help of Gavi and Pedri. Xavi does have all sorts of attacking options with Ansu, Ferran Torres, Memphis and Raphinha all around but this looks his Gala XI for now.
Balde & Araujo reward Xavi
Xavi’s teamsheet was not only notable for the presence of four midfielders but also the identity of the two full-backs. Alejandro Balde got the nod over Jordi Alba, who started against Betis, and Ronald Araujo moved to right-back.
Araujo was obviously charged with taking on Vinicius Junior, and once again ensured the Brazilian had a quiet game. We all know Araujo is better at center-back but this ‘anti-Vincius’ plan continues to work.
As for Balde, well the youngster put in another very impressive display against Fede Valverde in what is turning out to be stellar season for the 19-year-old. Indeed, he probably should have scored the opening goal but rushed an effort over the bar.
Balde deserved an assist too. A brilliant run and cross for Ousmane Dembele should have brought a goal but instead drew a save from Courtois.
All in all it was another great night for Balde, and more uncomfortable viewing for Alba and Marco Alonso.
Is this a changing of the guard?
Barcelona’s comprehensive destruction of Real Madrid, coupled with the team’s three-point lead over Ancelotti’s men in the league, does raise the question of whether this showed there is a changing of the guard?
Madrid were forced into mistakes all over the pitch against Barcelona and are really struggling for form after the World Cup. Interesting stuff, especially as Barca had more players in Qatar than their rivals.
Del Barça sóc supporter,— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_es) January 15, 2023
sempre t'animaré ❤️ pic.twitter.com/3j2rCuDdXs
Barca can also point to a very bright future. Gavi is 18, Balde is 19, Pedri and Ansu Fati are 20, and Ronald Araujo is only 23. These are young, hungry, talented footballers who have just been given a taste of what it’s like to win something.
It would, of course, be unwise to write Real Madrid off this early in the season but this defeat will certainly sting Ancelotti’s side. Barca are obviously still a work in progress but this win, particularly the manner of the victory, offers real hope for the rest of the campaign.