Xavi: Catalan derby a litmus test for improving Barcelona

By Sports Desk February 12, 2022

Xavi believes Sunday's Catalan derby with Espanyol will act as a "litmus test" to determine just how much Barcelona have improved.

Barca produced arguably their finest display yet since Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman three months ago in last week's 4-2 win against Atletico Madrid.

That followed a 1-0 win over Granada, meaning the Blaugrana have won back-to-back LaLiga games for just the second time this season ahead of their trip to Espanyol.

However, not since a run of six between February and April last year have they won three games on the spin in the Spanish top flight.

Barcelona make the short trip to RCDE Stadium back in the top four and now full of confidence on the back of a successful January transfer window.

But Xavi insists his side have not fully turned a corner yet, with wins in successive away games against Espanyol and Valencia the target to keep their momentum going.

"Sunday's match is another final for us," he said at a pre-match news conference. "It's a litmus test and it will be a very difficult game, very intense. They will want revenge.

"We're not ruling out any targets. Being 15 points behind the leaders, with a match in hand, shows how difficult it can be. It is difficult but we do not rule anything out. 

"The next few games will tell. We need several wins in a row and have to be consistent, while hoping those in front of us falter. We're fourth and we want to climb further."

 

Memphis Depay's penalty early in the second half gave Barcelona a 1-0 win over Espanyol in Xavi's first game in charge on November 20.

Barca have now gone 23 LaLiga games without defeat against their city rivals and could record the best unbeaten run by any team in any type of derby in the competition's history.

That is a record they jointly hold with Real Madrid, who also went 23 matches without losing against Atletico Madrid between 2000 and 2013.

The Blaugrana have also not lost any of their past 13 away games against Espanyol in LaLiga (W7 D6), including their 11 matches at RCDE Stadium.

But Xavi is taking nothing for granted against Espanyol, who are winless in four in the league and down in 13th place.

"Things have changed since the last meeting," he said. "Tomorrow we face a tough and intense rival. This is one of the best Espanyol sides in recent years.

"It will be a similar game to the one at Camp Nou, but we've changed since then. We didn't have time to prepare for that game, but now we have.

"We've got to consolidate the very good things we did against Atletico. We're training well but everything depends on the results. We are on the right track."

Related items

  • Former Reggae Boy Alex Thomas appointed head coach of Jamaica Premier League team Molynes United Former Reggae Boy Alex Thomas appointed head coach of Jamaica Premier League team Molynes United

    Molynes United Football Club has appointed Alex Thomas as their head coach for the upcoming Jamaica Premier League season.

  • Napoli announce Sirigu signing as Italy goalkeeper joins on free transfer Napoli announce Sirigu signing as Italy goalkeeper joins on free transfer

    Napoli have announced the arrival of Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu on a free transfer, with the former Paris Saint-Germain player reportedly penning a one-year deal with the club.

    Sirigu, who won the most recent of his 28 Italy caps in a win over Lithuania last September, left Genoa upon the expiry of his contract after they were relegated to Serie B last season.

    The 35-year-old will be expected to compete with Alex Meret for a starting spot in Naples after David Ospina left for Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr, although Luciano Spalletti's men have also been linked with moves for Keylor Navas and Kepa Arrizabalaga.

    Sirigu made 190 appearances for PSG between 2011 and 2016, and has also spent time at Palermo, Torino, Sevilla and Osasuna.

    Napoli boasted Serie A's joint-best defensive record as they finished third last season, conceding just 31 goals, but have seen the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens leave ahead of the new campaign.

    Napoli travel to Verona for their first outing of the 2022-23 Serie A season on Monday.

  • Premier League fantasy picks: Is James Maddison the midfield addition you need? Premier League fantasy picks: Is James Maddison the midfield addition you need?
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.