Xavi hoping Barca avoid 'catastrophe' of not beating Girona to keep up title charge

By Sports Desk January 27, 2023

Xavi believes it will be a "catastrophe" if Barcelona do not beat Girona on Saturday as they look to keep up their LaLiga title charge.

A run of seven wins in eight league matches has put Xavi's men top of the table, holding a three-point lead over rivals Real Madrid in second.

They continue their bid to win their first LaLiga title since the 2018-19 season on Saturday at home to Girona, who sit 11th and just four points above the relegation zone.

Xavi hopes his team can pick up another three points amid the pressure of a title race, telling reporters: "You have to beat Girona. This is Barca.

"This is the Barca environment, I know it very well. If we don't win tomorrow, it will be a catastrophe.

"Try to win it because it will be a difficult match. Michel [Girona head coach] has said that they have nothing to lose and we will come out with pressure because we want to win LaLiga."

Xavi is hoping Ousmane Dembele will extend his Barcelona contract amid rumours of a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Dembele scored Barca's winner as they beat Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Wednesday, continuing his excellent form this season after a tough 2021-22 campaign.

The France international has been involved in 15 goals with Barcelona in all competitions this season, already equalling his record of last term, but with his contract set to expire in 2024, there had been rumours of a move to PSG.

But Xavi wants Dembele to remain with the Spanish giants, telling reporters: "Ousmane is an important player, someone who makes a difference.

"It's difficult to find these kind of players. For me, he's a key player. Ousmane knows it, the club knows it.

"He has changed his mentality and I hope to have him here for many more years."

Barca overcame wastefulness in front of goal to overcome La Real and reach the Copa del Rey final four, with Dembele's goal enough to secure a narrow 1-0 win despite having 20 shots.

While Xavi is concerned about his side's profligacy in front of goal in tight matches, he believes his team are much improved from last season, saying: "I am worried about not finishing them [close games]. Many things have to be improved

"We have to value how we were last year and how we are now. There are things to improve, obviously, but I think we are in a very good moment of form and it should be valued."

Related items

  • Barcelona lose Frenkie de Jong and Pedri to injury in Athletic Bilbao stalemate Barcelona lose Frenkie de Jong and Pedri to injury in Athletic Bilbao stalemate

    Barcelona suffered a costly evening against Athletic Bilbao as they failed to make ground on leaders Real Madrid after a goalless draw that saw Frenkie de Jong and Pedri pick up injuries.

    Defeat for second-placed Girona and Real’s draw at Valencia opened up an opportunity for Barca but they were held to a stalemate at San Mames and sit eight points off top spot.

    Worse yet, they lost midfielders De Jong and Pedri in the first half, with the latter unable to hold back the tears as he contemplated the latest in a series of fitness setbacks.

    Ernesto Valverde’s side struggled to get time on the ball in the opening stages, with his former club Barcelona enjoying plenty of possession as Joao Cancelo established himself as the liveliest outlet on the park.

    Hanging on to the ball did not translate into obvious openings, though, with a pair of set-pieces the closest they came to an early breakthrough.

    Andreas Christensen headed over Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick and Jules Kounde’s ambitious flick off a corner also cleared the crossbar.

    For their part, Athletic were feeding on scraps and largely unable to make use of the ball when they made it into the final third. Barca’s flow was disrupted when De Jong went over on his ankle in the 26th minute, clearly unable to shake off the pain as Fermin Lopez took his place.

    They almost grabbed an opener out of nowhere shortly after the half-hour when Cancelo tried his luck from long-range after Unai Simon’s punt up-field and caught the keeper out of position. Simon managed to back-track and get a hand on it but still needed Yeray Alvarez to clear up on the line.

    With time running down on the first half Pedri went down with nobody else involved, forced out of the match and letting his emotion get the better of him as he returned to the dugout.

    Athletic came alive at the start of the second period, captain Inaki Williams twice finding space in behind and twice missing the target as he let loose. Barca defenders Ronald Araujo and Pau Cubarsi were also forced into shutting down promising moves as the tide threatened to turn.

    Alex Berenguer had a couple of promising breaks but floundered when it came to an end product while 16-year-old Lamine Yamal, Pedri’s replacement, saw a penalty shout waved away at the other end.

    The hosts almost made Barca’s night even worse in added time when Dani Garcia arrived unmarked at the far post from a corner but failed to direct his header on target.

  • Phil Foden stars as Manchester City come from behind to win derby Phil Foden stars as Manchester City come from behind to win derby

    Phil Foden scored twice in the second half as title-chasing Manchester City came from behind to claim a crucial 3-1 win over rivals Manchester United.

    The champions were stunned by a brilliant strike from Marcus Rashford after just eight minutes but were otherwise the dominant force in a keenly-fought Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

    Their pressure eventually paid off as Foden levelled with a long-range effort in the 56th minute and then put his side ahead 10 minutes from time. Erling Haaland put the result beyond doubt in stoppage time.

    Victory took City one point behind leaders Liverpool ahead of the two sides’ eagerly-anticipated meeting at Anfield next weekend.

    Foden, also last week’s match-winner at Bournemouth, is rapidly becoming City’s star of the season but prior to his intervention it seemed Rashford could steal the headlines.

    The England forward this week defended himself against suggestions he was not fully committed to United and his blistering opener was an excellent way to do his talking on the pitch.

    It came from a route-one punt upfield by Andre Onana which was taken under control by Bruno Fernandes and laid off to Rashford 25 yards out.

    He seized the chance as he hit a thunderous first-time shot which flew in off the underside of the bar.

    It could even have got worse for City with two more United breaks catching them out.

    A Ruben Dias slip allowed Rashford another run at goal but the bounce wrong-footed him and Kyle Walker cleared. Rashford was then unable to make clean contact with a shot after a low ball was whizzed into the area.

    Yet these were rare forays in a first half City otherwise dominated, racking up a remarkable 18 shots – their most without scoring in an opening 45-minute period under Pep Guardiola.

    Haaland was guilty of their most glaring miss. The prolific Norwegian, who scored five at Luton in midweek, remarkably volleyed over in front of an open goal from a well-cushioned Foden header.

    Prior to that Foden and Rodri were both denied by Onana while Jeremy Doku, Kevin De Bruyne and Haaland all failed to make the most of half-chances.

    The equaliser came early in the second half as Foden connected with another fine effort from outside the area that curled into the top corner.

    United protested, feeling Rashford had been fouled by Walker moments earlier and a furious Erik ten Hag was booked for his reaction on the touchline, but that contact had been deemed minimal by referee Andrew Madley.

    The leveller reignited an atmosphere that had become subdued and play was held up after a blue flare was thrown onto the pitch and landed close to Onana.

    City continued to probe with Walker shooting at Onana but United retained a threat on the counter-attack and Alejandro Garnacho broke clear only to be denied by an Ederson tackle.

    The decisive moment came 10 minutes from time as Foden combined with Julian Alvarez and beat Onana with a low drive across goal.

    Haaland wrapped up the scoring with a precise finish – his 28th goal of the campaign – late on.

  • Alessia Russo goal gives Arsenal north London derby victory at Emirates Stadium Alessia Russo goal gives Arsenal north London derby victory at Emirates Stadium

    Alessia Russo scored the only goal to hand Arsenal a 1-0 win over Tottenham in the north London derby in front of another sold out crowd.

    The Gunners sold out the Emirates Stadium for a second straight game as 60,050 watched the hosts keep the pressure on in the Women’s Super League title battle.

    Russo provided the winning moment four minutes after the break, lashing home from six yards after being set up by England team-mate Beth Mead.

    Manchester United lost further ground on the top three as they were held to a 1-1 draw at West Ham.

    Rachel Williams gave the visitors a fourth-minute lead with her 50th WSL goal.

    But Viviane Asseyi equalised five minutes from time to leave Marc Skinner’s side nine points behind third-placed Arsenal.

    Emma Koivisto scored twice as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 4-1.

    Grace Fisk’s deflected strike in the 19th minute gave Liverpool a lead and Sophie Roman Haug added a second before Sarah Mayling pulled one back from the penalty spot.

    Koivisto made it 3-1 on the hour mark and added a fourth with eight minutes left as the Reds moved level on points with Manchester United.

    Brighton beat rock-bottom Bristol City 7-3 to move eight points clear of the relegation spot.

    Elisabeth Terland opened the scoring in the 20th minute and Pauline Bremer added another four minutes later to give the away side a 2-0 lead heading into the break.

    City got on the scoresheet through Megan Connolly but Terland’s second of the day combined with Tatiana Pinto’s strike put Brighton 4-1 up.

    Two goals in three minutes from Brooke Aspin and Amalie Thestrup brought Bristol City right back into the contest.

    But any hopes of a sensational comeback were wiped out when Madison Haley struck in the 89th minute before Vicky Losada and Katie Robinson added further goals in stoppage time.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.