Xavi backs Ansu Fati to become Barcelona's version of Marcus Rashford

By Sports Desk February 18, 2023

Ansu Fati can follow Marcus Rashford's example and turn a promising start into a flourishing career, according to Barcelona head coach Xavi.

Teenage Barcelona forward Fati has had a stop-start beginning to his time in the spotlight, with injuries and a dip in form seeing him struggle to establish himself as a starter.

He has featured in 47 first-team games for Barcelona over last season and the current campaign but has started just 13 times, netting 12 goals and adding three assists.

This season he has six goals in 32 appearances, having managed the same number in 15 games during the 2021-22 campaign, and his shot conversion rate has plummeted from 24 per cent last term to just 9.38 per cent this time around.

Fati turned 20 in November and Barcelona see the Spain international playing a big part in their future, although they might like to see the return of the 2019-20 Fati, who hit eight goals as a teenage sensation.

In every season except this one, Fati has exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally, which assesses the quality of chances and the likelihood of a player scoring. This term his xG total stands at 7.87.

 

Asked whether Fati might become Barcelona's equivalent to Manchester United's Rashford, Xavi said on Saturday: "He has the potential to be. It is clear we have a lot of hope in him.

"We will give him confidence. Performance will mark his development. He will be important. He is being and will be."

Rashford was a teenage star whose game briefly went off the boil after a fast start. He featured in 53 games in the 2016-17 campaign as United won the EFL Cup and Europa League, their last major trophies, and Rashford hit 22 goals in the 2019-20 season followed by 21 in the next campaign, before managing just five in the 2021-22 season.

This season has seen 25-year-old Rashford back to his best, matching his best season haul of 22 goals by netting against Barcelona on Thursday in a 2-2 Europa League draw.

 

LaLiga leaders Barcelona host Cadiz on Sunday, wary they lost 1-0 in this fixture last year.

Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 12 LaLiga games (W11 D1), and victory over Cadiz would see them bring up a seventh consecutive win in the competition, matching their best run under Xavi, twice achieving seven-game runs previously.

Striker Robert Lewandowski scored and had two assists when Barcelona won 4-0 at Cadiz in September, the only time he has been involved in three goals in a single LaLiga game.

Xavi has urged Barcelona to make the most of having one of Europe's deadliest strikers as the spearhead to their attack.

With just one goal from his last five games, this is a lean patch for Lewandowski who has had 19 shots across those fixtures.

Xavi said: "He was extraordinary and now he's lower, but it's not bad. I'm happy with him because of how he works and moves. Maybe we have to use him more. He's a top player who makes a difference.

"He's always a danger. He links well and gives assists. You have to play more with him."

Barcelona will make changes with next week's second leg of their Europa League play-off against Rashford's United in mind, and midfielder Pedri misses out with a hamstring problem.

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