Barcelona may not have won in the fashion that they have become accustomed to over the last decade, but nevertheless they got three points against Atletico Madrid on Sunday night. It takes them three points clear at the top of the table, but it was much more than that according to Xavi Hernandez.
Speaking to Sport after the match, Xavi highlighted the emotional value of the win.
“This victory is not only three points, it is a victory that gives us a lot of morale for the remainder of the League, because we have banged our fists on the table to be candidates. We had a lot at stake knowing that Real Madrid had lost.”
Barcelona managed to do so without star striker Robert Lewandowski, who is suspended for the next two games against Girona and Getafe too. Ansu Fati started in his stead, before Ferran Torres came on in the second half. The latter is likely to miss several games too.
“It is also important to win without Lewy, because he is a key player. We have missed him under pressure. Ferran has done that job when he came on, but Lewy is a very important player for us.”
None of this would have been the case had it not been for Ronald Araujo. The Uruguayan central defender returned from injury in midweek against Intercity and made his first La Liga start since September. His goal-line clearance in stoppage time saved two points for the Blaugrana.
“He is a leader. He has been perfect, like Koundé, Christensen and Balde. At the end I asked him if he was alright [he doesn’t have any issues].”
Playing three central defenders, Jules Kounde operating nominally as a right-back, meant that Barcelona struggled to surpass the pressure of Atletico Madrid. Given they spent much of the match defending though, it served Barcelona well. Araujo is already proving his value, having scored in midweek and made two goal-line clearances in two games.