Xavi ranks Pedri alongside Iniesta as Barcelona go eight points clear with Betis win

By Sports Desk February 01, 2023

Xavi singled out Pedri for praise after Barcelona went eight points clear at the top of LaLiga by beating Real Betis, comparing the midfielder to Spain's "greatest talent" Andres Iniesta.

Goals from Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski boosted Barca's title bid as they clinched a 2-1 win at the Estadio Benito Villamarin on Wednesday, with the Blaugrana hanging on after Jules Kounde's late own goal.

While Pedri missed two decent opportunities before Raphinha's opener, the 20-year-old created two chances and managed a game-high 30 passes in the final third during an impressive display.

Speaking after Barca piled more pressure on title rivals Real Madrid – who host Valencia on Thursday – Xavi heaped praise on the diminutive midfielder.

"He is a player who is on another level, I have seen very few like him," Xavi said. "He is talented, he is at the level of Iniesta, but Andres had a continuity to the point that he is still playing. 

"Andres is the greatest talent I've seen in Spanish football but Pedri is very similar to him. He can make a difference, he is already doing it."

Pedri was not the only young player to shine for Barca, as Alejandro Balde recorded his fourth assist of the season from left-back to tee up Raphinha's goal.

Bayern Munich's Jamal Musiala (six) is the only player aged under 20 to create more goals for team-mates in Europe's top-five leagues this term, leaving Xavi excited by the teenage full-back's potential.

"I'm very happy for Balde, he has tremendous potential both in defence and in attack," Xavi said. "He gives us superiority by driving and that is very difficult to see in football.

"He has to exploit his potential even more, we encourage him to be transcendent, he is both a full-back and a winger at times. 

"Luckily we have three spectacular full-backs in Marcos [Alonso], [Jordi] Alba and Balde. He's so young and has this capacity, it is a joy to see him play." 

Barca's victory took them to 50 points after 19 games of the campaign. The Blaugrana have brought up a half-century of points by the season's midway mark on five previous occasions (in 2008-09, 2010-11, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2017-18), only failing to win the title once when doing so (in 2013-14).

However, Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini felt his side matched the leaders and had been undone by a free-kick being taken from the wrong position in the build-up to the opener.

"It was a balanced game that anyone could win and it was decided by two set-pieces. The first goal is controversial," the former Manchester City boss said.

"First it was a foul on Aitor Ruibal and it was not given, then they took the foul 20 metres further forward than they should have and caught us off guard."

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