Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Barcelona look to put behind their disappointing restart

MADRID ( Associated Press) — A disappointing restart after the World Cup break has Barcelona coach Xavi worried ahead of this weekend’s La Liga match against Atlético Madrid.

Barca visit Atleti on Sunday after two poor results, including a home draw against rivals Espanyol from the same city. Due to the loss of those two points, the Catalan team will no longer be able to lead the table alone.

The Barcelona team also struggled against third-tier Intercity in the Copa del Rey round of 32 on Wednesday, conceding the lead three times before going ahead after extra time.

“We can’t be complacent, we have to be stronger”, Xavi admitted. “It happened a little bit with us against Espanyol. We didn’t give away penalties, we were good in the game, we got into the zone, but we failed a lot in attack. We have not been good in our field either”.

The tactician’s worries have been compounded by his inability to rely on suspended star striker Robert Lewandowski against Atletico.

Campaign leading scorer Pole played against Espanyol while Barcelona appealed a three-match ban imposed on him ahead of the World Cup. But a court upheld the suspension on Wednesday and Lewandowski will miss the next three league games.

“I haven’t yet decided who will be number nine on Sunday,” Xavi said.

Possible replacements would be Ferran Torres or Memphis Depay. Both started in the game that Barcelona won 4-3 against Intercity on Wednesday. Torres has often come off the bench and been a starter at times.

Depay only made a few appearances this season.

Ansu Fati started the match against Espanyol and assisted as a substitute against Intercity to score the winning goal in extra time. They are expected to resume on Sunday at the Estadio Metropolitano.

A 1-1 draw against Espanyol left Barça on the same number of points as Real Madrid at the top. The two greats of Spanish football are nine points ahead of Real Sociedad, who are in third, and 11 above Atlético, who are in fourth and recently ended a losing streak that began ahead of the World Cup .

Los Colconeros beat bottom club Elche 2-0 to end a three-game winless run in La Liga. On Wednesday, they advanced in the Copa del Rey with a 2–0 win over second division club Oviedo.

Atleti have been unbeaten at home against Barcelona since 2019. The Catalan club won 4-2 last year, the last time they faced the mattress unit in La Liga.

other parties

Real Madrid, which trails Barcelona on goal difference, visits a Villarreal team on Saturday that has won three consecutive games since the World Cup and is in seventh place.

Real Sociedad will look to increase their winning streak to six in various competitions when they travel to Almería on Sunday.

Athletic Bilbao plays at the Osasuna Stadium on Monday, while Real Betis visits Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, having just been eliminated from the second tier by Sporting de Gijón in the Copa del Rey.

Sevilla, who made a disappointing start to the campaign, will look to move out of the relegation zone when they host Getafe on Sunday.

Elche, the only team that has not won after 15 dates, receives Celta de Vigo this Friday, threatened with the loss of the category.


Telles Azzoni is on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Nation World News Desk
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