Barcelona bounced back to winning ways in La Liga as they secured a 2-1 victory over RCD Mallorca at Camp Nou on Sunday night.
Having lost their last three games at home in a row in all competitions, it was imperative for Xavi Hernandez & co. to produce a strong reaction. And they did just that, with Memphis Depay opening the scoring for the Blaugrana in the 25th minute.
Captain Sergio Busquets doubled Barça’s lead nine minutes into the second period. Mallorca pulled a goal back through Antonio Raillo late in the game, but it only proved to be a mere consolation as Barcelona held on for a much-needed win.
The result sees the Catalan giants open up a two-point lead over third-placed Sevilla and a five-point gap over Atletico Madrid in fourth, taking the team closer to qualification for the UEFA Champions League next season.
Speaking after the game, Xavi said: “I’m satisfied with the result. Today was crucial to win. It was a game to win 3-0, but they made it 2-1. All week we talked about minimizing mistakes and in the end we ended up suffering.”
“We’ve lost many unnecessary balls today… We have to improve, but despite these mistakes I’m satisfied.”
The Barcelona manager also congratulated rivals Real Madrid, who were crowned the La Liga champions after their win over Espanyol on Sunday.
“I want to congratulate Real Madrid for their well deserved league title. Now our goal is to win the rest of the matches and to qualify for the Champions League,” he said.
Sunday’s game saw Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati make his much-awaited return to action for the first time after January. Expressing his pleasure at having the forward back, Xavi said:
“Everyone did a great job. I am happy that Ansu Fati is back. I’m very happy with Fati’s return, he’s a special player. He’s a great player and we’ve been missing him for months.”
On the role of the La Masia graduate in his plans, the manager added: “I see Ansu Fati as more of a #9.”
Xavi also spoke about the future of Memphis Depay, who was one of Barça’s star players on the night and has just one year left on his contract with the club.
“I’m not talking about the future, I’m talking about the present and the games to come. Memphis played today because he had a sensational week of training. Another player would have lowered his arms and he hasn’t, we need players with this attitude and mentality,” he said.
Gerard Pique had to come off with an injury again and speaking of the veteran’s situation Xavi said: “Piqué is in pain. He’s trying to come back.
“Piqué was feeling good before the match. He started very well, but then he felt discomfort and asked for a substitution. I thank Gerard for his leadership. The team needs him, when he plays we feel more secure.”
The manager also had some words of praise for young Gavi, saying: “Gavi has a tremendous character, hopefully his renewal will be done soon.”
There have been a lot of rumours and speculations surrounding Frenkie de Jong’s future at Barcelona recently, following his angry reaction to being subbed off against Rayo Vallecano.
Talking about the Netherlands ace, Xavi said: “I told Frenkie that he must constantly make a difference, I told him that there are few players in the world with his qualities.”
The Barcelona head coach also spoke about Ferran Torres’ lack of goals, saying: “I’m not worried about Ferran’s lack of goals, this is a path through which he has scored and assisted. He’s creating spaces.
“I’m very satisfied with him, how he works and how humble he is, the goals will come. I ask him not to stop and just keep going.”
Speaking of the atmosphere at Camp Nou, Xavi added: “We have to encourage the fans to come to the Camp Nou more, but I think it’s positive to see how they encourage us.”
And, touching upon the objectives for the remainder of the season, the Barça boss said: “We have two goals. The first is to get into the Champions League, which also provides financial funds. Then, of course, win the rest of the remaining games this season.”
Barcelona will come up against a tricky Real Betis side in La Liga next Saturday.