Barcelona sealed a second win on the bounce on Sunday night, keeping another clean sheet and scoring goals with ease against Athletic Club.
Added to their victory over Villarreal, it has eased pressure on the club and on manager Xavi Hernandez. The most intriguing part of the match from a Blaugrana perspective was the change in formation.
Xavi started with four midfielders, Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, Gavi and Pedri, and played a lopsided formation with Ousmane Dembele and Robert Lewandowski up front. Pedri nominally drifted out to the left side, however it the team dominated the midfield with an extra body there.
The Barcelona manager was pleased with his performance.
“Very good. We thought it was a game of intensity and rhythm. We understood that they were going to pressure us high. We added one more midfielder and today we attacked inside. Ousmane was especially good and the team understood that. We won duels and we have been good in the first half. We were good.”
Diario AS covered his comments and was then asked to explain why he went with the line-up he did.
“We wanted one more player in midfield. We found the superiority and, as we have matched their intensity, that was where the keys were. Today we pushed out wide. We almost played with a double pivot. We showed solidity and it was a complete match.”
It was arguably Barcelona’s most efficient performance of the season, even if Athletic Club played into their hands somewhat.
Whether Xavi will continue with that option on Wednesday against Bayern Munich is the big question. Xavi has been committed to using two wide forwards all season until this point and it would be a surprise if he departed from that idea on a regular basis.