Xavi trusts in Yamal and Cubarsi
Xavi raised a few eyebrows with his team selection against Betis, naming 16-year-olds Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi in his XI at the Benito Villamarin.
It was a brave move by the under-pressure Barca boss and it paid off handsomely as both youngsters enjoyed themselves in a 4-2 win.
Ferran Torres (more on him later) scored a hat-trick and grabbed an assist, but Yamal was arguably Barca’s best player on the night.
The teenager was a constant threat down the right with his runs, vision, decision making and quality on the ball. He also got through a lot of defensive work too in a simply brilliant showing.
| FOCUS— Sofascore (@SofascoreINT) January 21, 2024
Alongside Torres, Lamine Yamal produced the finest performance of his young career to date at Benito Villamarin this evening:
️ 1 assist
2 big chances created
3 key passes
21/27 accurate passes (0.32 xA)
5/7 successful dribbles
Cubarsi also had a fine full debut for Barcelona. A brilliant tackle to deny Betis a clear sight of goal in the second half was perhaps the highlight of a very composed outing.
Xavi was effusive in his praise of the two youngsters after the match, tipping both to “mark an era” at Barcelona.
“He [Cubarsi] is very well prepared. He doesn’t seem 16 when you speak with him. He is a focused and responsible kid. I don’t think he lost a single ball, either,” he said.
“He’s going to mark an era, the same as Lamine. We are continuing to build a team with young footballers. These are players who we must build the club’s future with.”
Ferran brings up his century in style
Ferran Torres made his 100th appearance for Barcelona on Sunday and celebrated in style by scoring his first hat-trick for the club and grabbing an assist.
The self-proclaimed ‘shark’ has struggled to convince supporters since he arrived but now has 11 for the season and has been involved in four goals in a game for the first time in his career.
A magnificent night for Ferran Torres! Three goals in his 100th Barça appearance! Congrats, Ferran! pic.twitter.com/LGffdLgMzB— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 21, 2024
Xavi has regularly backed Ferran since his move from Manchester City and was at it again ahead of the match, hailing his mentality and saying how it’s needed to play at a club like Barca.
Ferran is far from a fan favourite at Barcelona but there’s no doubt he gives his all. His first two were real poacher’s goals but his third was a lovely dink after being sent clear through.
There seems little doubt he deserves his place in the starting XI right now, although Joao Felix did offer a reminder of his talents with a brilliant finish to make it 3-2 after coming off the bench.
Xavi sends big message to Lewandowski
The performances of Lamine, Ferran and Joao Felix made it a good night for Barcelona’s forwards, apart from top scorer Robert Lewandowski.
Xavi subbed the Poland international off just after the hour mark, after another ineffective performance, and sent on Vitor Roque in his place.
It was a huge call by Xavi and one that seemed to send a big message to Lewandowski. Simply put, the striker is no longer untouchable at Barcelona and needs to step it up.
Lewandowski didn’t manage a single shot against Betis, had just 15 touches, completed only five of 12 passes and lost possession eight times.
10 - Barcelona have taken 10 points from goals scored in the last five minutes of LaLiga games this season, more than any other team in the competition. Character. pic.twitter.com/2WZCvJ5Nbc— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 21, 2024
Xavi explained his decision to substitute Lewandowski after the win.
“Lewandowski will continue to be important for us. I subbed him off because we needed someone to make runs in behind,” he said after the game.
Xavi certainly seems to be running out of patience with Lewandowski. Taking him off when his team were in desperate need of goals spoke volumes.