Barcelona coach Xavi talked up the importance of Barcelona's victory over Atletico Madrid as the LaLiga leaders returned to winning ways on Sunday.

Ferran Torres netted the only goal in a 1-0 win at Camp Nou, bringing an end to a goalless run that included back-to-back goalless draws in the league.

The victory also extended Barca's commanding lead at the top of LaLiga to 11 points over rivals Real Madrid, who could be forgiven for having their attention elsewhere as they defend their Champions League crown.

With eight games to go, Barca are closing on the title, but Xavi made clear there was work still to be done.

"There is nothing done, although it is exciting," he said. "Here, nobody feels like a champion, and if someone does, we will tell them that nothing has been done.

"If we lost, they were eight [points back]; it was crucial. Beyond the individualities, we played a very good game. It was crucial to win after two draws, and it's one more step."

Barca's victory was not as comfortable as it perhaps should have been, with Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha among those to miss chances, which Xavi lamented.

"I have the feeling of having wasted opportunities to make it 2-0; they were very clear," he said. "Rapha's, Robert's, one of Gavi's at the penalty spot.

"In the end, you end up suffering in a game that you deserved to win by more than one goal."

Xavi described 15-year-old Lamine Yamal as fearless after the winger became the youngest player to be included in Barcelona's squad for a competitive game.

Yamal, a La Masia product who will turn 16 in July, could become the youngest player to feature for Barca when they face Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou on Sunday.

The Spain Under-19 international is already the youngest player to be named in an official Blaugrana matchday squad, but Xavi is confident he can make an impact if called upon.

"He is a player who can help us because he is talented," Xavi said on Saturday. "He has a lot of personality, he can play one-on-one, he is strong and I am convinced that he can help us.

"I have spoken with him and he is grateful and happy. If the circumstances arise that he can help us, he is prepared."

Asked if Yamal reminded him of any former Barca greats, Xavi said: "He's an innate talent.

"With the new generations, the difference from my era is that they have no fear. Lamine is different... he has attributes from various players, I don't see a direct comparison."

Xavi welcomed the returns of Pedri and Frenkie de Jong as the Barcelona midfielders were passed fit to feature in Sunday's clash with Atletico Madrid.

Pedri has not played for Barca since he sustained a hamstring injury during February's 2-2 Europa League draw against Manchester United.

The Spain international initially looked set to return for last month's LaLiga meeting with Clasico rivals Real Madrid – a game Barca won 2-1 – only to suffer a setback in his recovery.  

While Pedri has missed a total of 11 games, Barca have also been without fellow midfielder De Jong for their last four matches after he sustained a similar injury.

Barca have struggled for creativity in back-to-back goalless draws against Girona and Getafe in LaLiga, but they will have both midfielders available when they host in-form Atleti.

"Pedri helps us, also Frenkie," Xavi said. "They are essential, vital players, however you want to say it, but we have played great games without them. 

"In the end, it is about the idea and the game model. We are in a privileged situation in LaLiga and the players have understood this well. We have played great games without some crucial players.

"Pedri is key in the last pass. He associates very well with Robert [Lewandowski], they get along very well. It's very good news to get him back, not only for Robert."

Having built an 11-point lead over second-placed Madrid with just nine games remaining, Xavi knows a first league title since 2019 is now Barca's to lose.

However, with Diego Simeone's visitors winning six successive league games ahead of their trip to Camp Nou, the Blaugrana boss expects a difficult challenge next time out.

"We have an important advantage and we have to make it good," Xavi said. "Losing the League would be anything but the fault of the other teams, it would be our fault. 

"Every game is a final from now on. If we beat Atletico, we would eliminate them as a rival. We are in a privileged situation but we cannot relax.

"Tomorrow will be a difficult game, Atleti are the best team in the league at the moment, they are the fittest team in LaLiga right now."

Diego Simeone is no stranger to defensive organisation, and the Atletico Madrid boss has been impressed by Xavi's work in making Barcelona difficult to break down this season.

Barca are closing in on their first league title since the 2018-19 campaign, sitting 11 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga with nine games of the season remaining.

While Xavi's side have been criticised at times for a perceived failure to employ an entertaining style, they have conceded just nine goals in 29 league games this term.  

The Blaugrana have kept a remarkable 22 clean sheets in LaLiga this season, at least four more than any other team in Europe's top five leagues (Lazio are second with 18).

At Saturday's pre-match press conference, Simeone was asked whether Atleti and Barca had become stylistically similar as a result of Xavi's work.

"I like this Barcelona," Simeone said. "It's a different Barcelona style. They have been growing and have had a great season. 

"They have improved in defence thanks to the characteristics of their players, and improving the defensive part has added more value to Xavi's work."

Atleti have won six successive league games to move within two points of second-placed Real Madrid, and Simeone believes their displays have not been met with the credit they deserve.

"When we started the season we were not in the best way. But if we go back a bit, to when we won LaLiga, we did it by playing very well," Simeone added.

"Sometimes a stigma is generated. Sometimes people don't watch the games and they give their opinion just to give their opinion. 

"Like Barca improving defensively, or Manchester City – who have given a very good defensive performance – we have improved, we have grown."

Simeone has overseen 15 trips to Camp Nou without winning as Atleti boss, more matches than he has taken charge of at any other venue since taking over Los Colchoneros in 2011. 

Opposing boss Xavi, meanwhile, has won both of his league games against Atleti since taking the reins at Camp Nou, and he could become just the second coach in Barca's history to win his first three meetings with Atleti in LaLiga (after Luis Enrique).

Xavi bemoaned the state of the Coliseum Alfonso Perez pitch after Sergi Roberto was injured in Barcelona's goalless LaLiga draw at Getafe on Sunday.

The misfiring Blaugrana were held at relegation-threatened Getafe after failing to score for a third consecutive game.

Barcelona remain well on course to win the title, leading Real Madrid by 11 points with nine games to play, but were left to rue their lack of a cutting edge once again.

Sergi Roberto was replaced by Eric Garcia early on due to a hamstring injury and Xavi put that down to the playing surface.

The head coach said, according to Marca: "The state of the grass has affected us. Yesterday we trained with a dry field. I have been criticised a lot for the issue of the surface. Today the whole world has seen it.

"It is very difficult to play like this, it is bad for the show. The ball gets stuck, it's bad even for Getafe. It's essential that it be in good condition."

Xavi added: "It's no excuse and we have to recover our sensations.

"We take a point that makes it not bad at all because of how uncomfortable we have been."

Regarding the injury, Xavi said: "Sergi noticed something in the hamstring. Let's see tomorrow. Let it be for a short time, whether or not there is an injury."

The leaders face third-placed Atletico Madrid next Sunday and Xavi warned they must not let their standards slip.

"I think we're having a good season in the league, but we mustn't fall asleep. Very important games are coming up," Xavi said.

"We tried to get the full-backs to go inside. We tried, we didn't have the best game, it's clear. We gave everything and we got a point that isn't entirely bad, but we're not satisfied.

"I hope that next week we can get two or three players back. It's not an excuse, we have a good squad, I'm satisfied. From there, minimise injuries and get people back. We'll plan for next season and see what happens."

Gavi has everything he needs at Barcelona and would not be happy at another club, according to Xavi.

The Spain international's future is uncertain due to Barcelona's financial situation, with a new contract at Camp Nou unable to be registered.

As a result, Gavi remains a youth player at the club and will be able to leave at the end of the season if the situation cannot be resolved, reportedly alerting a number of clubs in Europe.

Chelsea and Bayern Munich have both been attributed with an interest in signing the teenager, with the former reportedly prepared to make him one of the Premier League's best-paid players.

However, Xavi still believes his future is in Catalonia and questioned why he would want to leave.

"I don't think Gavi would be happy at another club, he has everything here," he told a pre-match press conference.

"He's 18-years-old, he's a key player in our team. For me, he is a footballer who is outstanding.

"I don't know what he is going to decide but, for me, his future is here at the club."

Barcelona may hold a commanding edge over their LaLiga rivals, but Xavi is taking nothing for granted.

The Blaugrana are playing after Real Madrid visit Cadiz, where Los Blancos can cut Barca's lead at the summit to 10 points, on Saturday.

Barca can restore a 13-point lead against Getafe on Sunday, with Xavi's men firmly on course to win LaLiga for the first time since the 2018-19 season.

With Madrid likely to focus their attention on the Copa del Rey final and their Champions League campaign, it would take a remarkable turn of events for Barca to lose their grip on the crown.

But Xavi is adamant that the hard work is not done and his side need to remain focused heading into the run-in.

"For us the difficult thing is to win games and tomorrow will be another test. They are playing against relegation and are risking their lives," he told a press conference.

"We are in a privileged situation, which I would have taken at the beginning of the season, but there is the final rush of the league, and we need to win many games to win this title.

"We have an important advantage, and these next three-to-four games are key. If we win them, we will be almost champions, but we are focused on tomorrow.

"We compete against very strong opponents. Being where we are in LaLiga has a lot of merit. We want to win this competition against Madrid and Atletico."

Xavi acknowledged Barcelona are in a "very good situation" at the LaLiga summit but was left to rue a missed opportunity at home to Girona on Monday.

The Blaugrana could have moved 15 points clear with victory, after Real Madrid fell to a 3-2 defeat against Villarreal on Sunday, but had to settle for a 13-point lead following a goalless draw at Camp Nou.

It marked Barca's second draw without scoring at Camp Nou in LaLiga this term, as many as in their previous four league campaigns combined, after Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga impressed.

Barca head coach Xavi says failing to win at home will always be a missed chance, though refused to criticise his side for their efforts.

Asked on DAZN whether it was an opportunity squandered, Xavi said: "We can't be positive with a point at home, but we are 13 points clear of second with 10 games to go.

"We are in a very good situation. We have tried, we have played a correct game, we have had many chances to score and win the game against a very good team.

"We just missed getting the first goal. I think we deserved to win."

Barca continued their unbeaten run at home in LaLiga this campaign (14 games), with only Union Berlin and Bayern Munich boasting a season-long such record across Europe's top five leagues this term.

The stalemate also marked a rare feat for Girona, who kept a clean sheet in a Spanish top-flight away game for the first time since March 2019 (2-0 win at Leganes).

Girona have not beaten their Catalan rivals Barca in six league meetings (L4 D2) but Xavi was quick to credit Miguel Angel Sanchez's impressive visitors.

The former midfielder added: "We are going to play teams like this, who are risking their lives. They told us that this point is massive.

"Next week we are going to Getafe, who are risking their lives. This team drew at the Bernabeu, it's a great team.

"We have to give credit to this league, people want to see it differently but we deserve praise to be where we are [at the top]."

A misfiring Barca frontline failed to breach the resolute Girona backline, with Robert Lewandowski and Ansu Fati largely passengers in a contest where Raphinha shone by creating a game-leading four chances.

The Brazil international's performance was in stark contrast to Fati, who has been involved in just one LaLiga goal in his last 16 outings after being involved in eight (5G 3A) in that amount of previous matches.

Blaugrana captain Busquets acknowledged it was difficult to overcome an industrious Girona as the Spain international outlined his intentions to wrap up the league title as soon as possible.

He told DAZN: "It was hard for us to hurt them, especially in the first half when they had a little more possession of the ball. They put a lot of balls inside and we weren't pressing well. 

"Even so, I think we have had them, but today we have seen how the minutes went by, they gradually established themselves more and more in defence and we could not get the goal. 

"Our main objective is to win the league as soon as possible. If Madrid drop points then good, but our objective remains the same."

Barcelona missed the chance to move 15 points clear at the LaLiga summit after being held to a goalless draw at home to Girona on Monday.

Real Madrid succumbed to a 3-2 defeat to Villarreal on Saturday but Xavi's Blaugrana failed to fire two days later, leaving Barca 13 points clear of the second-placed Los Blancos.

A fine Paulo Gazzaniga display kept the energetic hosts at bay, while Valentin Castellanos wasted the best chance of the game when curling wide in the second half at Camp Nou.

The stalemate ended a four-match winning league run for Barca, but Xavi's side remain unbeaten at home in LaLiga this season as the Blaugrana march towards the title.

Viktor Tsygankov sliced a presentable chance on the volley wide as Girona started positively, although Barca should have twice broke the deadlock in the opening 10 minutes.

Robert Lewandowski curled narrowly over after an Ansu Fati offload, while a despairing Gazzaniga dive saved Santiago Bueno from inexplicably passing into his own goal.

Another smart Gazzaniga stop denied Raphinha before the Girona goalkeeper – almost inside his own net – somehow clawed away Ronald Araujo's flick from the resulting corner.

Eric Garcia headed over from close range immediately after the interval but Girona should have struck first shortly after.

Castellanos evaded Barca's offside trap but placed wide with just Marc-Andre ter Stegen to beat, with Girona left to rue a missed chance that could have grabbed a memorable victory against their Catalan rivals, who themselves squandered some promising opportunities late on.

 

What does it mean? Xavi warning not heeded

Xavi warned his Barca players in his pre-match press conference to not get sloppy in search of a 15-point lead at the top of LaLiga, though the Blaugrana stars failed to heed that warning.

Girona were good value for a hard-fought point, albeit the visitors may look back with regret after Castellanos spurned a brilliant chance to secure their first league win over Barca since September 2017.

Barca remain firmly on course for the title but profligate performances such as this show there is still much to work on for Xavi's young Blaugrana.

Rampant Raphinha efforts in vain

Raphinha appeared to be everywhere as Barca tried and failed to breach an impressive Girona defence that was led by Gazzaniga, who made a trio of brilliant saves.

The Brazil international carved out a game-leading four big chances, including two brilliant set-piece deliveries, but his hard-working showing ended without deserved reward.

Careless Castellanos

Castellanos had time and space to think how to beat Ter Stegen with a massive second-half chance, though somehow failed to hit the target after racing through one-on-one.

That capped a frustrating showing for the Girona striker, who completed just five passes, won a meagre two duels and recorded only 14 touches before his 60th-minute withdrawal.

What's next?

Barca visit Getafe on Sunday, when Girona host Elche.

Xavi accepts Sergio Busquets could decide to end his Barcelona career on a high at the end of the season, though the Blaugrana boss remains hopeful of keeping the midfielder.

Busquets has won 31 major trophies during a glittering 15-year spell with Barca's senior side, but the 34-year-old's contract with the Catalan giants expires at the end of this season.

While Barca president Joan Laporta revealed the club were looking to offer Busquets a one-year extension last month, MLS side Inter Miami have long been credited with an interest in him.

Barca are 12 points clear of Real Madrid at LaLiga's summit ahead of Monday's meeting with Girona, and while Xavi hopes Busquets will stay at Camp Nou, he accepts his captain may view a title triumph as the ideal time to depart.

"Let's see how he ends the season," Xavi said of his former team-mate. "I have said it many times, for me [Busquets] is very important, not only in football but also in the dressing room.

"I have told him many times, I want him to stay but I also understand him. 

"I have told him, if everything goes well, this year he can leave with titles and in a great moment. I understand him perfectly. It's difficult. I will insist that he continues."

Xavi warned Barcelona they cannot consider the league title won even if they beat Girona to open up a 15-point lead over Real Madrid on Monday.

Barca were crushed 4-0 by Madrid in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final in midweek, meaning the Blaugrana only have the LaLiga title left to play for.

They were already 12 points clear at the summit before this weekend, and Madrid's surprise 3-2 home defeat to Villarreal on Saturday gives Barca the opportunity to increase the gap.

No team has ever overturned such a deficit at this stage of a LaLiga season, so Barca's position looks very secure.

But Xavi was keen to stress the importance of not taking their lead for granted, with the former midfielder acknowledging his young squad does lack a degree of maturity.

"[The title] wouldn't be considered won, there would still be 10 [games] left," Xavi bluntly said in his pre-match press conference.

"When the league is won, we'll celebrate it. We have to win it. Tomorrow's game is a very good test for us after the elimination in the Copa.

"We depend on ourselves. Fifteen points would be a spectacular difference. It wouldn't be all done, but it would be a big difference, and winning the league would be extraordinary."

Despite Barca's massive lead in LaLiga, their performances in other competitions have left a lot to be desired.

While they did win the Supercopa de Espana, Barca dropped out of the Champions League at the group stage and into the Europa League – Manchester United deservedly eliminated them from that competition, and they were even more comprehensively dumped out of the Copa by Madrid.

But Xavi lent on comments once made by former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane as he suggested LaLiga success reflects stability.

Asked what incentives Barca players have, Xavi said: "Winning LaLiga. Winning LaLiga is the focus.

"We have won five Champions Leagues, and winning the Champions League is required of us, but winning LaLiga gives us stability.

"We are 12 points ahead and that means that we do things well. We value what we are doing. It's amazing, and gets us closer to winning LaLiga, which for us would be extraordinary."

As for the other competitions, Xavi reminded critics they are still during the early stages of a new era.

"We need time. We won the Supercopa, we are on track in LaLiga. In Europe, we have not competed well.

"We've signed players, there are youngsters [in the squad]... when we have been playing together for two or three years, we will not be under construction.

"We've won a title and we're on our way to another."

Xavi was disappointed by Barcelona's failure to win "moments" after they were romped by Clasico rivals Real Madrid 4-0 at the Camp Nou to fall to a 4-1 Copa del Rey semi-final aggregate defeat.

An Eder Militao own goal in the first leg at the Bernabeu meant Barca headed into Wednesday's return match on home turf with a one-goal advantage.

But a strong first half by Barca ended with a short period of play that would prove crucial, as Thibaut Courtois made a brilliant save to deny Robert Lewandowski before a sweeping counter-attack ended with Vinicius Junior levelling the tie.

Madrid then sealed their progression with a brilliant second half, as Karim Benzema's hat-trick put the 31-time winners out and set Carlo Ancelotti's men up to meet Osasuna in the final on May 6.

Xavi was left frustrated by his team's failure to match their first-half display, telling Movistar+: "It is a difficult night to digest. This is football.

"You have to compete better. We have competed well until 1-0. They are moments that we have to stop. We could have also stopped the 2-0 moment. In short, they are details that we have to control.

"In the first half we were very good, but that's what I said: football is about moments and we didn't take advantage of them.

"When football is so even, you have to take advantage of the moments. We didn't do it in the first half and they did in the second. They have been superior, no excuses."

Xavi credited Madrid for their excellent second-leg display, saying: "I already said yesterday that Madrid were favourites.

"We cannot argue that they are a great team. They are the LaLiga and Champions League champions and they do not forgive. 

"When you don't kill Madrid, they kill you."

Despite the elimination, Xavi's men hold a 12-point lead over Madrid at the top of LaLiga, and he is hoping his team can put this setback behind them to kick on and claim the title.

"We had a very bad second half, but we have to get up," he said. "Tomorrow we will get up with all the hope to beat Girona.

"It is a tough result, but we have to focus on the league."

Barcelona are not affected by off-field matters amid the ongoing Negreira scandal, head coach Xavi said.

The Catalan giants are subject to an investigation from UEFA with prosecutors in Spain pursuing charges for alleged corruption, having allegedly paid over €7million to the company owned by former vice-president of the refereeing committee in Spain, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.

LaLiga cannot take action due to a statute of limitations in Spain but, speaking on Monday, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin confirmed no such restrictions are in place for their investigation, while talking up the severity of the scandal.

Barcelona have denied any wrongdoing.

And Xavi insists the allegations are having no impact upon his squad.

"Extra-sporting issues don't go into the locker room. We talk about how to defend, how to attack. We are not talking about UEFA, nor Negreira," he told a press conference ahead of the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Real Madrid.

"We are focused on the Cup: there is a Clasico, they will come wanting revenge and we want to show that we can win again. The Camp Nou has to be a pressure cooker.

"I listen very little [to outside comments] and we value from within. The president values it very much. If the boss is not happy, it matters what is said from outside.

"Nothing should divert us, tomorrow we can have a double joy: to beat Madrid and reach a final. We are much better than last season."

On Monday, Barcelona issued a statement urging LaLiga president Javier Tebas to resign after alleged false claims in the Negreira case but Xavi refused to comment on the matter.

"I don't know him, we have greeted each other two three times, and I don't have a clear opinion," he added.

Barcelona hold a slender 1-0 advantage heading into Wednesday's game but Madrid are still the favourites, Xavi believes, saying: "When we have a two-legged game, I have the feeling that it is very difficult. How long has it been since they lost a two-legged tie?"

"That's why for me they are still the favourites despite the 0-1. They have more pressure than we do.

"Madrid can beat you perfectly. For me it is very even and they have a point that makes them favourites, they are used to coming back from matches."

Xavi highlighted Barcelona's success as a team effort rather than down to individual performances after a comfortable 4-0 win in LaLiga over Elche.

A Robert Lewandowski double, plus goals for Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres, saw the Blaugrana swat aside their rock-bottom hosts at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.

Against a team who look almost certain to be relegated, there were few doubts about Barca's superiority.

But Xavi was quick to praise his side's unsung heroes as much as their headline-makers, stating his belief that it is a balance of both that will bring them the title.

"It has been a rounded night," he said. "[It was] a very good game, from start to finish. We have a team with players who do not necessarily participate too much.

"[But] they performed at a high level. This is [the definition of] a team. We have taken one more step [towards the championship], we are closer. We have shown that we are a unit."

The coach highlighted the versatility of several of his players, including Eric Garcia, who played in midfield, and Marcos Alonso, who fulfilled a centre-back role.

On Fati, Xavi was happy to see the player put his off-field distractions behind him, following a week where his father complained about his lack of minutes for the club.

"Ansu made a difference," he added. "It has left him exhausted, but he has done a great job for the team. His goal comes because of his work ethic and talent.

"He has that, and it will come out. If he continues to work like this, he will end up playing more often."

Xavi insisted it is not the time to talk about a potential reunion with Lionel Messi as Barcelona close in on the LaLiga title.

Having already secured the Supercopa de Espana, the club's first silverware since Messi's departure in 2021, Barcelona have a commanding 12-point lead in LaLiga and hold a 1-0 lead in the Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid.

A potential treble remains on the cards for Xavi's side, but with Messi now in the final months of his contract at Paris Saint-Germain, the clamour to bring the Argentina World Cup winner back to Camp Nou is growing.

While Xavi is understandably keen to bring his former team-mate back to Barcelona, he is focused on upcoming matches and not potential transfer activity.

"I think this is not the time to talk about Messi's return. I talk to Leo often, I have a friendship, but this is not the time," he told reporters ahead of facing Elche.

"Neither for his sake nor for that of the club. It is a subject that is being discussed, I have a lot of contact with him.

"Hopefully, we can see him again here, I would be the first one who would be made happy. He is the best player in history, but boy, it's not the time.

"We are a month away from winning two titles, and it's time to focus.

"It doesn't depend on me, it depends much more on what Leo wants to do. He's done everything in football, he's won everything; it depends on his happiness.

"I have a great relationship with him, and if he has the decision that he wants to come back, we will listen to him and be delighted.

"We're going to listen to fate. Let's see what happens, there's nothing yet. Let's see the will he has.

"We do a disservice to Leo, the team, the club. We are one step away from achieving success in the post-Messi era that scared us so much. This is success."

Pressed further on Messi and next season, Xavi again sought to shift the focus towards the push for further silverware in this campaign.

"We haven't talked about next year with the board," he said. "We are one step away from winning titles and you talk to me about signings next year. You are specialists in changing the subject.

"On Wednesday, we can go to the Copa final. Everything is to be won.

"Sometimes I do not understand you [the media]. All year round, the talk is to win titles, and now that we are one step away, we talk about players for next season. Let's focus on Elche."

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