Xavi gets Barca back on track
Barcelona ended a three-game losing streak at the Camp Nou by beating Real Mallorca 2-1 to return to second place in the table and close in on Champions League qualification.
Xavi’s team looked refreshed and fired up after a week’s rest and should probably have won by a bigger margin such was their dominance.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was denied an early goal by a superb save from Sergio Rico, while Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres both had goals ruled out.
Mallorca’s late effort threatened to make things interesting but Barca never really looked like conceding again and eased to a crucial three points.
There were plenty of positives from the game too. Memphis Depay scored a great goal, Busquets was on the scoresheet again and Ansu Fati was finally back in a Barca shirt.
It was a good night for pretty much everyone except for Gerard Pique, who was forced off injured for the fourth time this season, and eternal substitute Riqui Puig.
It had been expected Puig might get some minutes with Pedri and Nico Gonzalez injured (and Frenkie and Busquets one booking away from a ban) but once again the 22-year-old didn’t get on.
Meanwhile, results have also gone Barca’s way this weekend, with Atletico and Sevilla dropping points, which means Xavi’s side can guarantee a top-four finish next weekend against Betis.
Pique’s injury problems continue
It wasn’t all good news for Barca on Sunday with Gerard Pique back in the starting XI but managing only 27 minutes before he asked to come off.
The defender is trying his best to play through the pain barrier but Xavi admitted he’s finding it difficult right now.
The Barca boss said after the match, “Piqué is making a super effort for the team and he asked me to change because he couldn’t take it anymore.”
It’s not clear now if we will see Pique in Barca’s final four matches. Xavi does have plenty of options defensively but knows his team look more secure with the veteran in the backline.
Memphis takes full advantage
Memphis Depay was back in the starting XI against Real Mallorca and took full advantage, scoring a superb opening goal and showing his creativity throughout the match.
The Dutchman now has 12 goals for the season, and is the club’s top scorer once again, but also created three chances in an effective showing.
Xavi was full of praise for Memphis after the match, praising the forward’s attitude and the desire he had shown on the training ground ahead of the match.
There has been plenty of speculation Memphis could leave this summer but this is the short of showing that could keep him at the club, particularly with doubts over the futures of Ousmane Dembele and Adama Traore.
Ansu Fati finally returns
Memphis’s goal was one of the highlights of the night but the loudest moment was undoubtedly when Ansu Fati took to the pitch as a late substitute.
Barcelona fans have been waiting since January to see the No. 10 in action and he made his long-awaited return to huge applause from the 62,789 fans at the Camp Nou.
Xavi couldn’t hide his delight after the final whistle at having Ansu back in action for Barcelona.
“Ansu is a special player. He scores goals in training you wouldn’t believe, he’s coming back from an injury now and at the moment I wanted him down the middle rather then the wing,” he said. “Maybe physically he’s not ready but I was very happy with his contribution. He’s a different player, he’ll give us a different approach. I’m very happy for him and he’s going to be big for the team.”
Welcome back, Ansu Fati.
Alba & Busquets notch impressive stats
There were also key contributions from two of Barca’s most experienced players.
Jordi Alba teed up the first goal for Memphis to collect his ninth La Liga assist of the season. Opta highlighted how impressive an achievement that is by Alba.
9 - Jordi Alba has provided nine assists in LaLiga this season, the most by a defender in a LaLiga campaign since Marcelo Vieira with Real Madrid in 2016/17 (10) and the most by a Barcelona defender since Dani Alves in 2011/12 (11). Samba. pic.twitter.com/IH28maSHSA— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 1, 2022
That wasn’t all though. Alba also managed 132 passes and 157 touches in the 90 minutes which is the most by a player in a La Liga match this season, according to Opta. Not bad going for a 33-year-old.
Busquets was also impressing the statisticians with another goal. The midfielder rarely finds the back of the net but now has as many goals in his last five games as in his previous 122.
2 - Sergio Busquets has scored two goals in his last five games for Barcelona in all competitions, as many goals as in his previous 122 appearances for the club. Captain. pic.twitter.com/JjCtmRGD78— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 1, 2022
The result also sees Busquets enjoy his 328th La Liga win, overtaking Raul Gonzalez in the standings, per Opta. Only Lionel Messi (363), Iker Casillas (334), Sergio Ramos (334) and Andoni Zubizarreta (333) have enjoyed more victories in the Spanish top flight.