Xavi claims first trophy
We take a look at the situation at Catalonia’s leading clubs as a new calendar year begins
Xavi’s side have not looked back since hitting the top of the league prior to the World Cup break. Since then, their record reads P9 W8 D1 L0 F19 A7, with the 1-1 league draw against Espanyol at the Camp Nou on December 31 the only blemish on an otherwise perfect set of results.
Granted, two of those wins were against relative minnows in the early rounds of the King’s Cup, but two of the others were against Betis and Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, which was played in Saudi Arabia, to bring Xavi’s first trophy as Barça head coach. That final, in which Barça comfortably outplayed the Spanish champions to run out 3-1 winners, may just be enough to convince the squad, fans and media that this Barça is capable of going on to lift the La Liga title this year. Indeed, they still sit top of the perch on 47 points from 18 games, and although there is still more than half of the league season left to play due to the World Cup break, hard fought 1-0 victories like those at Atlético and Girona and at home to Getafe during the month of January are exactly the type of wins that earn you league titles.
The periquitos’ form has been very promising since the World Cup break, starting with the aforementioned much-prized draw at the Camp Nou, reaped thanks to a 73rd minute penalty by Joselu. Following that, Diego Martinez’ side beat Celta 3-1 at home in the King’s Cup, although they did get knocked out later in the month with a 1-0 defeat in San Mamés, before notching creditable league wins at Getafe (1-2) and at home to Betis (1-0).
The other home game was a 2-2 draw at home to Girona, who equalised late on to deny Espanyol the three points, and the last game of the month brought a sobering 3-1 defeat away at Almería, but overall, it has been a very satisfying start to 2023.
After the disappointment of losing at lowly Cacereno in the King’s Cup in December, two 2-2 league draws against Rayo (h) and Espanyol (a) were followed by a glorious comeback win against Sevilla at Montilivi, after falling behind early on. Another late Yangel Herrera goal to add to the one that salvaged a point at Espanyol a week earlier sealed three very welcome points against the Andalusians.
However, the unbeaten league run of seven games was brought to an abrupt halt in the most dramatic of circumstances in the next game, away at Villarreal, which Girona lost to a highly contentious 99th minute penalty, after keeper Paulo Gazzaniga had already saved a spot kick four minutes earlier to add to several spectacular saves earlier in the game. Despite then suffering a second straight defeat at the end of January, losing 1-0 at home to league leaders Barça, the side now sit comfortably in mid-table.