All eyes Xavi as Barcelona look to derail Real Madrid title charge

Xavi Hernandez. Source: X

Barcelona face an uphill task against Real Madrid in this El Clásico at their own backyard. Los Blancos sit eight points clear atop the table and are buoyed by a resounding victory at Manchester City in the UCL Quarter Finals, while Barcelona suffered a stunning defeat at home to Paris Saint-Germain, exiting the UCL Quarter Finals. All eyes will be on Barcelona Head Coach Xavi Hernandez, as this could be his last El Clásico in the dugout, having announced his departure at the end of the season.

His team will go all guns blazing to disrupt Real Madrid’s title ambitions. Although he guided Barcelona to the La Liga and Super Cup titles this season, the ongoing campaign has been frustrating for him and the fans, especially after the UCL exit. The former Barcelona player has been sent off thrice this season for dissent towards the referees from the sidelines. Although Barcelona found their rhythm back since Xavi’s decision to leave in January, they now have no other title hopes alive apart from La Liga, which also seems daunting. Starting his managerial stint at Barça with two titles and then experiencing a sudden dip in form, shattering their silverware dreams this season, what went wrong for Xavi and his boys? Let’s take a look:


GOAL on X: "Ronald Araujo accidentally ran over a fan's foot when leaving Barcelona's training complex 🤕" / X
Ronald Araujo. Source: X

Struggling Defence
Barcelona’s defensive prowess from last season, marked by most clean sheets in Europe and conceding only 20 goals in La Liga, appears challenging to replicate. Ter Stegen’s outstanding performance and a solid backline limited the opponents’ chances. However, vulnerabilities emerged in their ongoing campaign, exposing weaknesses in transition defence. Sergio Busquets’ departure to MLS has left a significant void in the midfield, impacting defensive stability. Inconsistencies in the backline, with frequent changes and lack of cohesion, further exacerbate defensive frailties under Xavi’s leadership.

Injury Crisis
Barcelona have faced a barrage of injuries this season, affecting key players such as Ter Stegen, Gavi, Pedri, Lewandowski, Balde, Kounde, Araujo, Raphinha, De Jong, and Inigo Martinez. At one stage, they were missing six first-team members. Injuries are common in football, but Barcelona’s lack of depth has been exposed by too many injuries.

FC Barcelona on X: "Robert Lewandowski 🔥" / X
Lewandowski. Source: X

Lewandowski’s Struggles
Last season, Robert Lewandowski emerged as a standout signing despite his age, revitalising Barcelona’s attack with his goal-scoring prowess. However, this season has seen a shift. While Lewandowski’s quality remains evident, his reluctance to adapt his game to Barcelona’s evolving dynamics is apparent. The team’s reduced creativity has affected his performance, leading to missed opportunities and a decline in sharpness. Though still contributing with eight goals in La Liga, he falls short of his previous Ballon d’Or level. Barcelona’s dependency on him increases their challenges when he struggles to find form.

FC Barcelona on X: "🔥 First Barça goal for Gavi! #DreamTeen #BarçaElche" / X
Gavi. Source: X

Gavi’s Absence
One player’s absence looms larger than others for Barcelona. His versatility in the midfield and the wings has been crucial for Barça, initiating the press, winning tackles, and driving forward. However, an unfortunate ACL tear sustained during a non-essential international match sidelined him in November. Xavi consistently emphasises Gavi’s importance, noting that Barcelona lack their usual edge without him. Gavi’s absence leaves a noticeable void in Barcelona’s midfield dynamics.

Poor Transfer Window
Barcelona had a challenging transfer window due to ongoing financial woes. Limited by funds, their acquisitions fell short of expectations. Oriol Romeu, who joined as a Busquets replacement, proved underwhelming in the midfield. Joao Felix displayed flashes of brilliance but lacked consistency. Joao Cancelo and Inigo Martinez also failed to impress. Despite the difficulties of the market, Barcelona’s high standards demand better signings. The lacklustre additions highlight the club’s struggle to make impactful transfers, leaving room for improvement under Xavi’s management.

Despite having a roller-coaster season, Xavi, who started his professional career at Barcelona and spent 27 years at the club, would like to cap off their ongoing campaign on a winning note before leaving the club at the end of the season. “For us, it’s the most important game of the season. We have to win to put pressure on the leader,” Xavi wants his boys to give their all against the league leaders.