Xavi still unbeaten away from home
Barcelona’s win over Mallorca made it 18 games unbeaten away from home for Xavi, who set a new La Liga record and beat the previous streak held by Zinedine Zidane.
Xavi can rub it in next time too as Barca’s next match away from home in the Spanish top flight is at the Santiago Bernabeu.
18 - Xavi Hernández has not lost any of his 18 LaLiga away games as Barcelona manager (W13 D5), the best unbeaten start away from home by a manager in the competition's history (Zinédine Zidane with Real Madrid in 2016 - G17 W13 D4). Inspiring. pic.twitter.com/9CwSulkdf5— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 1, 2022
The Barcelona boss admitted after the game he was was happy to take the record but added that it doesn’t mean much if the “records are not accompanied by titles.”
Barca’s win takes the team back to the top of the table for now but they will drop back into second place if Real Madrid beat Osasuna on Sunday.
Ter Stegen’s streak continues
Another record that went on Saturday night was one belonging to Ter Stegen. The German goalkeeper has set a personal best for minutes without conceding a goal and has still only been beaten once this season in La Liga.
Ter Stegen insisted after the match that the three points were more important than personal glory but there’s no doubt that he is a man in form after a couple of underwhelming seasons.
Perhaps the highlight of his performance was a crucial save from point blank range to prevent Jaume Costa making it 1-1. “I don’t know where Jaume Costa came from,” he said after the match. “Suddenly he ends up alone in front of me. I did everything I could to stop that shot.”
Ter Stegen is also benefitting from an improved defense in front of him which all bodes well for the future. Barca’s backline has been vulnerable for too long but one goal conceded from 630 minutes of football in La Liga speaks volumes.
Xavi’s patched up defense does the job
Xavi was forced to field a patched up defense against Real Mallorca with Jules Kounde, Ronald Araujo, and Hector Bellerin all missing through injury.
The coach lined up Gerard Pique and Andreas Christensen in central defense with Alejandro Balde at right-back and Jordi Alba on the left.
Both central defenders looked extremely assured at the heart of the backline, while Xavi explained his decision to go with Balde on the right after the match.
“We have chosen the most logical option. Sergi is coming off some discomfort and we preferred Balde to be in that position,” he said. “Alba, Piqué and Christensen have defended well. We have been good. We have only conceded two chances.”
"That's football — you have to be prepared for anything"— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 1, 2022
— Alejandro Balde on playing for the very first time at right back pic.twitter.com/BUdZmxkf93
Balde did a decent job after switching flanks and could be an option to continue at right-back during the injury crisis. The teenager admitted after the game it was the first time he’d played in that position but it may not be the last.
Ansu’s first start for almost a year
In attack there was also a rare start for Ansu Fati. There’s been a lot of talk about the teenager over the international break and he will surely have been thrilled to be in the starting XI for a La Liga match for the first time since 6 November 2021.
There was also a morale-boosting assist for Ansu who now has three for the season and is top of the charts in La Liga along with Lee Kang-In, Joao Felix, Balde, and Hugo Guillamon.
Ansu is also developing a good relationship with Robert Lewandowski in the Barca attack.
3 - Ansu Fati (two assists) and Robert Lewandowski (one) have combined for more goals than any other duo in LaLiga this season. Connection. pic.twitter.com/fBR1NgfUuV— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 1, 2022
Of course the youngster does still look some way off his very best form but still has three assists and two goals in nine appearances for Barca this season (that’s a goal contribution every 43 minutes). The youngster is having to be patient at the moment, for club and for country, but the signs are promising.
Lewandowski needs more from Barca
Barcelona’s match-winner against Mallorca was, once again, Robert Lewandowski with his 12th goal of the season for the Catalan giants.
It was a very special strike too. The Poland international received the ball from Ansu Fati, headed off towards goal, turned back and curled an incredible shot low across goal into the far corner.
Not many players can score goals like those and you suspect if Lewandowski hadn’t been on the pitch then Barcelona may not have taken home all three points.
The Catalans enjoyed 71% of the possession against Mallorca but didn’t create too many chances and only had three shots on target throughout the whole.
Lewandowski may be a virtual guarantee of goals, as Xavi admitted after the match, but the striker needs more from his team-mates and much better service going forwards.