1. On November 20, 2021, Xavi Hernandez made his debut as Barcelona head coach in a derby against Espanyol taking place at Camp Nou. That team had Pique, Mingueza, Nico and Ilias Akhomach starting, while Ronald Araujo, Riqui Puig, Demir, Abde and Coutinho came on as substitutes.
They battled for a place in the Champions League and won 1-0 thanks to Memphis Depay’s successful penalty.
A year and a half later, also in a derby against Espanyol, this time at Cornella, Xavi’s side won 4-2 and became La Liga champions with a very different lineup.
There is only one similarity: the repetition of the score 1-0. This season, there are 11 times Barca won with such results, a special number in the club’s history.
The derbies with Espanyol still function as an emotional engine for the young players as well as Xavi himself.
“The best thing to be a La Liga champion is to beat the opponent Espanyol,” the message was given at the Joan Gamper sports center before Barca entered the 34th round.
In the first leg, Espanyol held Barca at Camp Nou thanks to Joselu’s penalty. This time, “Blaugrana” has special convictions and motivations.
The derby spirit and the desire for glory are reflected in each player, especially the young Alejandro Balde. He was involved in the first two goals in 20 minutes: a superb assist for Robert Lewandowski to open the scoring, then doubled the lead himself.
A reliable Barca and completely overwhelmed Real Madrid lacks stability and is very interested in the Champions League. No one could keep up with Xavi’s army, who won the championship four rounds early.
2. This feat can be personalized in the role of Ter Stegen, who kept 25 clean sheets in 34 matches in the top flight of Spanish football; also have a lot of credit with 21 goals from Lewandowski – who scored twice against Espanyol (Kounde scored the other; Javi Puado and Joselu scored for the home team).
Pedri’s creation – described by Xavi as “able to make any invention” – was equally decisive. Besides the energy from Gavi, and the power of Araujo…
However, all individuals pointed to Xavi as the common theme. “The credit belongs to the coach,” the Camp Nou dressing room agreed. “He unites the team and puts the team above any ego.”
The leaders explained: “The collective sense prevails in both good and bad times, as seen in Alba’s goal against Osasuna (round 33, he came on in the last minutes and scored the winning goal. won 1-0 in the 85th minute – PV). All were lined up in one direction under the command of Xavi.”
The job of the coach has two decisive factors: his knowledge of the club, the circumstances that allow him to act with common sense and without the need for detailed instructions so as not to make mistakes at a time of great pressure in the post-Messi era. .
“Before, you couldn’t move a hair without looking at Messi’s face,” a source close to the Barca squad confirmed. “Xavi remembers forgotten habits, and new ones are quickly restored: schedules, meals, uniforms, and chaos are over.”
The source stressed: “The disciplinary requirements are well understood and they act like a family, with leaders acting like other players on the team; the most obvious case is Lewandowski.
Xavi was a leader in the golden era with Messi. Now, he initially succeeded in the collective management of the post “La Pulga” period.
3. At the beginning of the season, Barca lost to Real Madrid in the “El Clasico” match with a score of 1-3, leading to doubts about the style of play that Xavi pursued.
Xavi is annoyed. He lacks the right players to develop the beautiful football familiar to Barca fans for many years.
Change is required, from which 1-0 results appear continuously. Despite many problems in Europe – being excluded from four UEFA competitions in two years – the team has a qualitative leap.
Three months after losing to Real Madrid, Barca won another “El Clasico” with a score of 3-1 and won the Spanish Super Cup. It was an important stepping stone for the team to win 2-1 in La Liga and open a turning point for the race.
In the national leagues, no team is as sure as Barca with only 13 goals conceded. Particularly at Camp Nou, the club has only conceded 2 goals (Real Madrid and Espanyol).
“We’re still a team under construction,” insisted Xavi, who vividly remembers Frank Rijkaard’s stage two decades ago. Barca was very messy, gradually built by the Dutch military until winning La Liga in 2005 and then winning the Champions League 2006 in Paris.
Rijkaard made a number of changes to balance the squad, with Ronaldinho finding an important foothold. The above victories are the premise for the revolution to the top of the world that Pep Guardiola has received since 2008.
“What I dream of is for Barca to win and win trophies,” Xavi replied when compared with Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola or Johan Cruyff.
“My ego isn’t that big, I’m satisfied with it,” explains Xavi. “I don’t want to surpass Pep, Johan or anyone else; quite the opposite. I was brought up by them, as their student. My dream is to win trophies with Barca.”
Winning La Liga is a turning point, from now on is the preparation period for the conquest of the Champions League. Sergio Busquets decided to leave and Xavi is hoping Messi returns to develop the European project together.
Ngoc Huy | 08:35 05/15/2023