This Sunday, the Santiago Bernabeu will play host to the 282nd installment of El Clasico; arguably the best soccer fixture on this planet which pits rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona in a historic showdown that envokes the very best of highs and lowest of lows relying on which facet you’re on come full-time.
But although Real Madrid comfortably sits atop the La Liga desk with a 10-point lead over Sevilla, bitter rivals Barcelona come into the gargantuan fixture stuffed with confidence because of their resurgence underneath former midfield dynamo, membership legend, and son of La Masia, Xavi Hernández.
11 video games unbeaten in all competitions.
Xavi ball 🔥 pic.twitter.com/GYdnHS72yc
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 17, 2022
It was all going flawed for Barça within the early doorways of the present 2021-22 season underneath former Dutch icon Ronald Koeman after his return to the Camp Nou with the Zaandam native guiding the Blaugrana to a 4-3-3 file within the league whereas planting the seeds of a marketing campaign within the Champions League that may solely be described as a humiliation which might finally see them crash out of the group stage and dropping all the way down to the Europa League.
Not surprisingly, Koeman was finally stripped of his duties within the Catalan capital, however reasonably than go along with a extra seasoned head to attempt to information the membership out of the doldrums, they introduced residence one in every of their most storied sons after Xavi lower his enamel with Qatari outfit Al Sadd. It is a call the membership has not regretted.
The Xavi impact
From the outset, Xavi returned to his outdated stomping grounds as a person on a mission; to return Barcelona to its lofty perch the place the membership genuinely belongs as one of many titans of soccer not simply in Europe, however across the globe.
He instantly maintained that solely three gamers on the membership had been untouchable; La Masia graduates Ansu Fati, Gavi, and Nico González. A trio of gamers to construct a future round whereas lifting up the id of the membership as a non-negotiable keystone of his managerial platform.
Building on that, the stubbornness of Xavi to not negotiate in how Barcelona was to comport themselves on the pitch has been on the very core of their success since his arrival within the latter a part of 2021.
At the time of writing, Barcelona has been on an unbelievable run since his managerial debut for the membership in opposition to metropolis rivals Espanyol on 20 November that noticed them run out 1-0 winners. All-told, Barça has posted a 10-4-1 file in La Liga since he has returned to the Camp Nou with credible outcomes in opposition to Villarreal (3-1), Atlético Madrid (4-2), Valencia (4-1), and Athletic Club (4-0) coming alongside the way in which.
The information behind their performances have been spectacular as properly, and at present, Barcelona sits within the top-five within the three main attacking stat markers in La Liga this season; possession (1st; 61.5%), photographs per recreation (third; 13.5), and go completion price (2nd; 88.1%). Thus far, the proof could be very a lot within the pudding.
Barcelona deal with the Market
Notwithstanding Xavi’s need to depend on La Masia as he seems to be to push the membership again to the dizzying heights they had been accustomed to throughout his heyday within the coronary heart of the midfield, the Barcelona boss was adamant in his need to usher in attacking high quality – and upgrades – throughout the January window that will swimsuit his penchant for setting his workforce up of their vaunted 4-3-3 deployment to reap the benefits of broad areas as a supply of creativity.
Deals for former Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Manchester City’s Spanish starlet Ferran Torres, and former academy graduate Adama Traoré (on mortgage) had been secured throughout the winter window with a transparent intention by Xavi to concentrate on the membership’s incapability to constantly management issues within the last third and repeatedly discover the again of the online.
The revitalization of French worldwide Ousmane Dembélé has additionally paid dividends as properly at Catalonia, with the membership now with the ability to financial institution on a cadre of attacking gamers that aren’t solely interchangeable throughout the entrance three however are performing to an appropriate normal after which some.
How they have on in Catalunya
Though on paper the enterprise perpetrated by Barcelona undoubtedly focused enchancment within the last third, there was no assure that the trio of attacking signings would play a big function in a revival of fortunes this season; however they’ve certainly performed simply that.
Misfiring at Arsenal when he arrived in Spain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been a person on hearth since settling on the membership to the tune of 7-goals in 10-appearances which has included 5-goals in 6-outings in La Liga. The similar might be mentioned for Ferran Torres, who has contributed 5-goals and 4-assists in 13-appearances throughout all competitions since his arrival from Manchester City, whereas Adama Traoré has added a quartet of assists in 9 appearances between La Liga and the Europa League.
What does the information appear to be? In a phrase, encouraging.
No different membership in La Liga has scored extra targets than Barcelona since 31 January when Aubameyang was introduced into the membership as the ultimate piece of the winter market buying spree, whereas no different facet within the Spanish high flight has a better xG and solely Sunday’s El Clasico opponents in Real Madrid managing to bag the identical quantity of factors as Barça have throughout that point interval.
Though Barcelona is more likely to not arrest Real from their perch atop the desk, the proof continues to mount that Xavi Hernández was not solely the appropriate man for the job however destined to information the membership to success within the coming years which might undoubtedly cement his standing as one of many best figures within the membership’s illustrious historical past.