Barcelona travel to city rivals Espanyol tomorrow evening in another important chapter in Xavi Hernandez’s reign. The blaugrana beat Atletico Madrid 4-2 at Camp Nou last weekend to leapfrog them into fourth place. They’ll be keen to consolidate their place in the top four and apply pressure on Real Betis.
Barcelona are currently two points clear of Atletico and two behind Betis, helped by the latter’s 2-0 home defeat to Villarreal last weekend. The Andalusians take on Levante tomorrow afternoon, so Barcelona could go third if Betis lose and they win.
But it won’t be easy. The form table points to Barcelona as the clear favourites heading into this one, but everything goes out the window in a derby. Espanyol are currently 13th in the league table having lost three of their last five, but Barcelona only beat them 1-0 when the two sides met at Camp Nou in the reverse fixture. That game was Xavi’s first in charge at the club.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference in comments carried by Mundo Deportivo, Xavi made time to praise Gavi, the phenomenal 17-year-old Andalusian that’s become a fixture in his midfield this season as well as with Luis Enrique’s La Roja.
“The situations where he steals balls, which are many, when he puts pressure after losses, it’s brutal,” he said, using a Spanish expression that indicates something is extraordinary. “He turns very well, he knows how to retain shape, he knows how to be the third man, he knows when he has to come inside. At just 17 years old his performance is spectacular. It’s wonderful to train him.”