Xavi on best ever run
Xavi oversaw yet another victory on Sunday as Barcelona ran out 1-0 winners against Villarreal to move 11 points clear at the top of the table.
The numbers certainly make for great reading right now. That’s also 16 clean sheets from 21 league games and still just the seven goals conceded.
Xavi is also now on his best-ever run as a coach. Sunday’s win was Barca’s 16th in a row without a loss, a run that stretches all the way back to October.
It’s also 11 straight wins, matching a record previously set by Pep Guardiola.
Xavi's 11 wins in a row in all competitions equals Pep Guardiola's best winning streak as Barça's manager— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 12, 2023
He can set the record against Manchester United on Thursday pic.twitter.com/SyxKNtNZ40
The coach’s previous best was 15 games without loss which he’s managed twice before, at Al Sadd and last year at Barca between January and April when he first took over.
Barca’s current unbeaten run has propelled the team to the top of the table and a healthy lead over Real Madrid as well as putting the Catalans in a strong position to win La Liga this season.
Is Araujo the best defender in Spain?
Sunday’s win saw Ronald Araujo and Pedri stand out for the visitors. Pedri got the goal but Araujo ensured another clean sheet for the Catalans.
The Uruguayan made countless key interceptions and challenges throughout the match in a performance that will likely have given Yeremy Pino nightmares.
Araujo’s pace is vital but there’s plenty more to the center-back than that. Indeed Xavi pointed out just how much he’s improved in possession after the win.
“He is the player who has grown the most with the ball, he is extraordinary,” said the coach.
ARAUJO: "Hey, culers! Very happy for the win! Visca el Barça! Let's keep going!" pic.twitter.com/MihQMuCaMn— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 13, 2023
There was also plenty more praise from team-mate Alejandro Balde who is loving playing alongside Araujo in the Barca backline
“Araujo is a beast; he’s a safety net at the back and we’re very happy to have him with us,” explained the left-back.
The praise is understandable as right now Barca have the best defence in Europe’s top five leagues and, in Araujo, they have one of the best defenders on the continent too.
Lewandowski shows a different side
In attack, Robert Lewandowski had a curious game. The Poland international missed an early chance you would have expected him to gobble up and drew a blank once again.
That’s now just one goal in his last seven La Liga matches. Hardly an issue, given his quality, but it does seem the World Cup and his ridiculous three-match ban have had an impact on the striker.
Yet we did see a different side of Lewandowski against Villarreal even if his finishing wasn’t quite up to scratch for once.
Lewandowski against Villarreal:— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) February 12, 2023
- 1 assist
- 2 big chances created
- 2 key passes
- 2/3 long balls
- 4/6 ground duels won
- 2/3 aerial duels won
- 3 shots (3 on target)
He is finding it hard to score, but he contributes in other ways. pic.twitter.com/SDDZe3MyKt
Lewandowski bagged his fifth La Liga assist for Barca, with a lovely combination with Pedri, and is clearly developing a great understanding with the midfielder.
There was talk of Lewydependencia earlier this season but that’s clearly been put to bed in recent weeks. Yet Barca will be keen for Lewandowski to rediscover his shooting boots in La Liga as soon as possible.
Frenkie de Jong thriving ahead of Man Utd clash
Frenkie de Jong also played a key role against Villarreal and seems to be absolutely thriving since Xavi switched to using four midfielders. Barca were without Sergio Busquets due to injury but De Jong ensured the captain wasn’t missed at all.
The Dutchman was intense in his pressing, played a role in the goal with his pass forward, and was fairly immaculate in possession for the visitors.
Frenkie De Jong vs. Villareal:— All Eredivisie (@EredivisieXtra) February 13, 2023
90 minutes played
87% pass accuracy [47/54]
1 key pass
4/5 accurate long balls
100% dribble attempts 2/2
#dejong #frenkie #eredvisie #VILBAR pic.twitter.com/Qq7coVovKE
De Jong now goes up against Manchester United next time out, the team who spent last summer chasing the midfielder and ultimately missed out because he did not want to leave Barcelona.
The rumors may well return in the summer, with whispers already flying around that a big sale will be needed, but Xavi is clearly a big fan and spoke about his improvement this season after the match.
“The key is the confidence we give him, how he feels, he is happy and very important in the team,” he added. “He is a total player.”
Long may it continue.
No game time for Ansu
One player who is lacking confidence is Ansu Fati. The youngster’s future has made headlines in recent weeks, with rumors Barca could be willing to offload the youngster in the summer.
Xavi has staunchly defended Fati in his recent pre-match press conferences and made sure he’s the only player who’s featured in every league match this season. Until Sunday. Fati once again started on the bench but this time did not see a single minute.
It was something of a surprise too, particularly given Fati’s record against Villarreal. The striker has scored four times in just five games against the Yellow Submarine and was probably looking forward to another shot at Villarreal.
Xavi sent on Jordi Alba and Ferran Torres in the second half but surprisingly left Ansu on the bench, just days after appearing to be clearly angry about the ongoing exit rumors.
Like it or not, you can probably expect a few more now.