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Xavi’s trust in youth pays off for Barcelona

Great win at the Wanda

Atletico de Madrid v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

FC Barcelona against Atletico Madrid is a fixture that has always provided great entertainment value and Sunday’s game was no different.

The Catalans have generally done well against the Rojiblancos in La Liga, and although the hosts might feel hard done by, there’s no doubt that the result will have given Xavi a real boost ahead of the Spanish Super Cup.

Perhaps the only concerns for him at the break was that the visitors weren’t at least three goals to the good (because that would’ve been no more than they deserved), and that they’d dropped their level directly after going ahead - something that has crept into their play of late.

The suspensions of Robert Lewandowski and Jordi Alba meant a recall for Alejandro Balde and a start in the centre for Ansu Fati.

Atletico Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

As we’ve come to expect from the former, an offensive style, fearless dedication to the job in hand and excellent distribution were all on show.

Fati, whilst not able to find the back of the net again, did a reasonable enough job of keeping the Atleti defence busy in the time he was on the pitch, which, in the absence of Lewandowski, was an unsung but much-needed role on the night.

It might even be said that Pedri’s contribution went under the radar too, but that’s more to do with the levels that we’ve come to expect from the player. His was another performance of understated brilliance.

And then we come to another teenage sensation… Gavi. It’s easy to forget that he’s not yet 18 and a half, such is the maturity to his game.

The way in which he went in on Koke on the hour mark shows he is no respecter of reputations, and just a minute or so later, he was back near his penalty box snuffing out a decent chance for the hosts.

Busy, fiery and occasionally hot-headed, which he is loved for, he was a deserved man of the match.

Atletico Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Indeed, all of the youngsters are still very much learning their craft and yet are consistently holding their own against much more experienced opponents, so some supporters would do well to remember that before throwing shade in their direction.

This article can’t be concluded without a mention for the defensive colossus that is 23-year-old Ronald Araujo. Another that’s hardly a veteran, but who plays like one. A game-saving clearance at the death underscored another commanding game for the Uruguayan, who is surely destined to become captain for the club eventually.

Atleti might not be in their best form under Cholo Someone, but they’re no mugs either. The result on Sunday is, therefore, well worth celebrating.

And even if, ultimately, the 2022/23 campaign doesn’t end in the way culers hope, there is so much to be excited about.

Finances are gradually getting better, Barca are beginning to attract a decent standard of player again, and it’s a decade or so before these teens theoretically reach their peak by way of example!

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