A small improvement for FC Barcelona: the Catalan club scored a second consecutive victory in the league by winning on Saturday at Alavés (3-1) during the 23rd day of Liga, and regained third place in the standings. The reigning Spanish champion (3rd, 50 points) temporarily overtakes Atlético Madrid (4th, 47 points) before Sunday's Madrid derby against Real (1st, 57 points) and remains in contact with its neighbor Girona ( 2nd, 56 points), who conceded a draw against Real Sociedad (0-0).
Xavi's men, who announced his departure at the end of the season two weeks ago after the 5-3 defeat at Villarreal, were however put in difficulty from the first seconds of play despite a change of system placing central Andreas Christensen in midfield.
After several alerts, the Barcelonans were efficient and opened the scoring on their first opportunity, Robert Lewandowski concluding with a dive a great collective action passed through the feet of Pedri, De Jong and Gündogan (23rd, 1-0). A first goal in La Liga since December for the Polish striker, who had already saved his side in the first leg with a double (2-1), and a ninth assist from Gündogan in all competitions.
And despite a clear Catalan domination, it was the Andalusian team which created the most situations, pushing Iñaki Peña to two saves ahead of Guridi (36th) and Sola (45th 1). Found by Pedri at the far post, Ilkay Gündogan doubled the lead with a volley from the right at the start of the second half (49th, 2-0), before Alavés immediately reduced the gap with a new goal from the head of the colossus Samu Omorodion (50, 2-1).
Xavi then launched his latest Brazilian recruit Vitor Roque, 18, who gave his new team victory against Osasuna on Wednesday (1-0). And “Tigrinho” (the little tiger) roared again a few minutes after coming into play, giving Barça a two-goal lead from the left on a cross from young Hector Fort (63rd, 3-1). A second goal in two games for the Brazilian hopeful, recruited last August for 40 million euros, unfortunately subsequently expelled for a second very severe yellow (72nd).
“We will appeal the red card because it is clear that it was a mistake. Another mistake against us... The expulsion is very unfair” declared Xavi Hernandez on DAZN after the match. Already deprived of eight players from his squad, Xavi was forced to bring out his attacking midfielder Pedri, who immediately placed an ice pack on his right thigh (75th). The Catalan coach this week vehemently criticized a “criminal” schedule which pushed Barça to play nine matches in one month.
Its neighbor Girona let it slip two points which could prove valuable in the title race by conceding a draw on its lawn against Real Sociedad (0-0). Michel's men remain second, one point behind Real ahead of Sunday's Madrid derby, which could see Los Blancos move four points clear if they win. Already decimated by injuries, Real Sociedad, future opponent of Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 of the Champions League, lost their full-back Alvaro Odriozola and their new recruit Sheraldo Becker. Appearing injured in the knee at the end of the match, captain Mikel Oyarzabal also left the pitch limping.