Is Barcelona finally back?

Barcelona is in the middle of an enjoyable domestic run this season. They put up yet another rugged performance over the weekend, earning a 1-0 victory away at Girona.

While Xavi’s superstars may have ultimately finished 13 points behind the Readl Madrid last season – who won the La Liga title again – the Spanish giants have made key advancements this season. They currently sit at the top of the pile with a five-point lead.

Prior to the World Cup winter break, Barca had experienced another embarrassing group stage Champions League exit, but Xavi’s team now have their eyes set on achieving a historic domestic sweep.

The Catalans enter February as the favorite to win La Liga for the first time since 2019, with the spirit at the Nou Camp at its best in recent memory. On January 6, Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3-0 in Saudi Arabia to clinch the domestic super cup trophy, Xavi’s first major silverware coaching the Catalan side. 

What changed?…

A campaign based on fortified defense

While Pep Guardiola led Barcelona to fame for their prolific scoring outbursts, there is no denying that Xavi has given the Spanish juggernauts a new defensive steel.

Although the Catalonia-based powerhouse may have exited the Champions League last season after another disastrous European campaign, Barca has developed a genuine reputation for their tenacious defending.

Xavi’s team has now kept a clean sheet in each of their last four domestic games after winning another 1-0 away at Girona last weekend, temporarily extending their league-table lead over Madrid to six points.

Barca has amazingly conceded a meager six goals in 18 league matches played so far this season, with new signings like Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde having an immediate influence since joining the Catalan giants.

The defensive tenacity of the team has also been the foundation of Xavi’s success, as evidenced by Marcos Alonso, an ex-Chelsea defender who just signed a new contract after an eye-catching debut season with the Camp Nou outfit.

The Spanish revolutionary generation

Xavi’s youthful players have garnered much of the attention this season, despite the scoring prowess of their veteran point man, Robert Lewandowski, who has continued to excel since moving from Bavaria to Spain last summer.

With Pedri scoring the game-winning goal away at Girona over the weekend and netting three goals since the World Cup, the Spanish international plays a crucial role in Barcelona’s quest for major silverware in 2023. The 20-year-old, who won the golden boy award in 2021, has also developed a solid on-pitch relationship with fellow indigenous star Gavi over the past 12 months.

Ronald Araujo’s defensive form is at an all-time high after securing his place in Xavi’s first-team plans. He is also happy to see 20-year-old youngster Ansu Fati return from a protracted injury issue.

After seeing senior players like Gerard Pique and a host of others leave the club, the La Liga leaders don’t seem deterred. Xavi is building a team for the future with fascinating young talents at his disposal.

Coming of age for Dembele

Ousmane Dembele has rapidly established himself as a true fan favorite at Barca, having already scored and assisted five goals in La Liga this season.

Following his arrival from Germany five years ago, the former Borussia Dortmund star found it difficult to hit the ground running due in part to constant injury layoffs and a lackadaisical work attitude. 

The 25-year-old has since turned his form around. It is not surprising that Barcelona is eager to pen the French international to a new long-term contract, given his impressive 11-goal contributions in all competitions this season.

Dembele might have only continued to win accolades before and during the World Cup break, but Xavi will be left devastated to see his in-form winger suffer another injury setback over the weekend.

The French international will be unavailable for Barca’s Europa League knockout playoff clash against Manchester United on February 16 after limping off with a suspected hamstring injury midway through Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Girona.

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