From zeroes to heroes
After hammering Betis and Antwerp, scoring 10 goals along the way, Barcelona looked set for a reality check when Celta scored twice to leave Xavi’s side staring into the face of a first defeat of the season.
Yet Barcelona managed to pull off a remarkable comeback, scoring three times in the final 10 minutes to take home all three points.
Barca have come up with a few amazing comebacks in their time and this is certainly right up there. It’s just not something you see very often:
2 - @FCBarcelona are the 2nd @LaLigaEN team since 1998/99 to win a game after going behind in the 81th minute by +2 goals difference and scoring the first comeback goal in the last 10 minutes after Athletic in November 2001, also 3-2 against Celta. Giant. pic.twitter.com/hPT8HASNMn— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 23, 2023
“We really believed until the end. We played with faith and courage. It was a comeback born from a will to win. When you don’t play well, you need these qualities,” said Xavi afterwards.
“We were taking more and more risks, leaving two at the back, everyone else on the pitch was an attacking player. We had to take risks and it came off.”
Xavi has every right to be thrilled with his team’s ability to come back from the dead and snatch the win but must be concerned by this performance.
Celta came with a game plan, executed it well and had more than enough chances to finish Barca off. The fact that Marc-Andre ter Stegen was MVP speaks volumes.
Lewandowski back in charge of Pichichi race
Robert Lewandowski endured a slow start to the season which had many critics licking their lips and preparing to write off the 35-year-old Poland international.
Fast forward a few weeks and Lewandowski is back on top of the scoring charts in Spain’s top flight and smiling again.
Barcelona’s striker now has eight goals in his last seven matches for club and country. He’s also bagged three assists along the way for good measure.
Robert Lewandowski has 12 goal contributions in his last 8 matches for club and country.— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) September 23, 2023
vs Cádiz - ️
vs Villarreal - ⚽
vs Osasuna - ⚽
vs Faroe Islands - ⚽⚽
vs Albania - ❌
vs Real Betis - ⚽ ️ ️
vs Royal Antwerp - ⚽ ️
v Celta Vigo - ⚽⚽ pic.twitter.com/cHJ1ExPigZ
Lewandowski was key to Barcelona’s win at Celta. His first goal offered hope and was swiftly followed by an equaliser with five minutes of normal time remaining.
Yet even after his second goal went in Lewandowski could be seen urging his team-mates back to continue the game. He may have scored two goals and salvaged a point, but he still wanted more.
Xavi hits 50 wins as Barcelona boss
Barcelona’s win over Celta brought up 50 wins as manager for Xavi. He’s also hit the milestone during a time of financial uncertainty and transition, putting him fifth on Opta’s list as you can see below:
50 - Managers who needed fewest games to reach 50 @LaLiga wins with @FCBarcelona:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 23, 2023
63 - Luis Enrique
67 - Pep Guardiola
68 - Helenio Herrera
69 - Ernesto Valverde
70 - XAVI HERNÁNDEZ
Masters. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/3fq2DEXGF0
Yet for a long time it looked as though Xavi would have to wait to pick up win No. 50 after seeing his side go behind.
The Barca boss changed shape and threw on Lamine Yamal and Ronald Araujo at half-time in a bid to get back into the match and then added Alejandro Balde and Raphinha.
Yet it was Celta who scored again before Barcelona’s players stepped up in the last 10 minutes and came up with an unlikely comeback.
“We needed to compete better and show more purpose,” said Xavi afterwards. “We were not good at pressing after losing the ball. We could have lost and we will learn from that.
The comeback will mask a lot of failings that were on show from Barca for the majority of the game. Barca will take all three points but this match should serve as a warning to Xavi and his players.
Joao + Joao = 8 goals
Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo started again for Barcelona against Celta and provided more vital contributions for the Catalan giants.
The two loanees have both enjoyed a bright start to life with their new club and there was more of the same on Saturday.
Felix picked up an assist for Robert Lewandowski to make it 2-1, before Cancelo set up the equaliser and then went on to score the winner.
Félix: ⚽️⚽️⚽️ ️ ️— Squawka (@Squawka) September 23, 2023
Cancelo: ⚽️⚽️ ️
The Joãos have been directly involved in eight goals in their first four games at Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/iD02HBHBxb
There’s no doubt the two players have already improved the quality in Barcelona’s squad and can hopefully improve further.
Cancelo certainly knows he has far more to offer his new club. The Portugal international wasn’t impressed with his performance, despite scoring the match-winner, insisting afterwards he had a stinker.
Gavi can do everything
Once again Barcelona needed a giant dose of Gavi to get the job done against Celta. The teenager actually started on the bench but was needed before the break due to an injury to Frenkie de Jong.
Gavi’s intensity had been missed in the early stages of the game, and he promptly picked up a booking after arriving which must have worried Xavi.
Yet the midfielder went on to prove integral to Barca’s win, and his pass to pick out Cancelo for Barca’s third goal of the night was something else.
How on earth did Gavi see this pass?— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 23, 2023
What an assist to Cancelo for the winner pic.twitter.com/4QbBkByjRu
Xavi even singled out the midfielder for praise after the final whistle in Montjuic.
“If we have to personify the comeback in someone, it would be Gavi,” he said.“But this was a team effort. The [Celta] goal in the 80th minute was a hammer blow — normally Barça don’t come back from that.”
Gavi has become best known for his tenacity, tackling and penchant for picking up bookings but he offers so more than that which he has shown again in the early weeks of the season.
The Spain international can play in a variety of positions, presses, breaks the lines, scores goals, creates goals and is quickly making himself one of the first names on Xavi’s teamsheet.