The defeat against Manchester United did not change the Barcelona dressing room. Yes, on the other hand, he encouraged the Barça group to remember that their priority is the League. However, faced with the possibility of extending the distance to Real Madrid to 10 points, Barcelona sank in the field of Almería. “It’s a bitch because we knew that Madrid had lost points (Ancelotti’s team drew 1-1 in the derby against Atlético on Saturday) and it was an opportunity to stretch the advantage,” explained Eric García. “Very disappointed. We did not expect to lose this match. We are seven points away, but we should be 10″, added De Jong.
Xavi Hernández did not speculate on the mea culpa. “It was the perfect day not to fail. A golden opportunity has been lost. We had discussed it in the talk before the game. I apologize to the fans. We have not had passion to win the game. We have to realize that it will be difficult to win the League. I am very pissed off. We have played the worst game of the season”, analyzed the coach from Barcelona. And he added: “If we want to win the League and the Cup we have to change the chip.”
In Barcelona they boasted of the team’s progress in the League. And they compared it with last season. In the 2021-2022 academic year, Xavi’s first on the Camp Nou bench, after matchday 23, the Barça team finished fourth, with 38 points, 15 behind the leader, Madrid. “Having finished second last year was a miracle,” they say from the coaching staff. After an investment of 158 million in the summer market, Barcelona, which is still lost in Europe, has been revitalized in Spain: champion of the Super Cup, first in the League and semifinalist of the Copa del Rey. Precisely, with the duel against Real Madrid in his sights (the first leg, at the Santiago Bernabéu, next Thursday), Xavi chose to take care of his two best defenders: Araujo and Koundé. And, in addition, from the outset, Raphinha and Alejandro Balde also sat on the bench.
Xavi’s first idea is not superfluous. The technician changed names — “We have noticed a little fatigue. That is why we have rotated. We have had a lot of tute on the calendar, ”said the Barça coach —, but not according to the system: he maintained the drawing (4-3-3), with Gavi as the fourth midfielder along with Busquets, Kessié and De Jong. “We always have to be very focused. We have not started the game well. And, if you don’t start well and they score, it’s hard to get into the game”, stressed the Dutch midfielder. Xavi was very critical of the attitude of his boys in the first act. “We haven’t won a League for three years. I don’t understand the first part of this team”, commented the Barcelona coach. And Eric García explained what he asked Xavi after going through the locker room. “We have not come out with the intensity and rhythm that he played. Xavi told us that if we didn’t equalise, the intensity was going to be very difficult”, revealed the Catalan central defender.
Xavi changed his name and system. He went from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 and even tried out center-back Araujo in the Almería area. “We have played it in that 3-4-3 with Ronald up front. In the second part it has been seen differently, but it was too late. We had chances in crosses, but not too clear”, said Xavi. It happened, however, that Barça’s first shot on goal came in the 81st minute. “They were very close. They let us cross, but they had a lot of people inside defending. It was almost impossible to get anything out,” said Eric Garcia.
It is the first time that Almería has beaten Barcelona in 22 games. Opening night also for Rubi, who had never beaten Barça as a coach. “Almería is risking their lives. They begin the day in descent and have set the intensity that must be set. Also, they defend very well”, concluded Xavi.
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