Xavi talks Luuk de Jong, Araujo, Pique red card after Espanyol vs Barcelona
Barcelona just about held onto the fourth spot in the La Liga table as they secured a last-ditch 2-2 draw against Espanyol on Sunday night.
With Atletico Madrid having won against Getafe on Saturday, the Blaugrana needed at least a point from the RCDE Stadium to retain their place in the top four. And when Pedri put them in front just two minutes in, it looked like Xavi Hernandez & co. were headed for a win.
However, Espanyol rallied back and goals from Sergi Darder and Raul de Tomas on either side of half-time put the hosts in control. With the minutes rolling on, it looked like Barça were in for a major disappointment, but Luuk de Jong came to the team’s rescue to equalise in the 96th minute.
The draw ensured that the Blaugrana stayed fourth but Atletico are level on points in fifth place. Manager Xavi addressed the media after the game (h/t BarçaTV+) and talked about his team’s performance and the result.
“We could have won the game. We dominated and created chances. We had to settle the game when we were in our best moments. The second half we controlled the game completely, but then Tomas’ goal came,” he said.
“We are improving in the style of play, we control and we create chances, but we have to score and settle the game,” the Barcelona legend added.
The result means that the Catalan giants are now on an eight-game unbeaten run in La Liga, with their last defeat coming in early December against Real Betis.
Speaking of the streak, Xavi said: “It’s important that we do not lose indeed, but we have to get all the three points and today we couldn’t do that. We feel bitter.”
There was a moment during the second half of the game when Xavi sent out a piece of paper for his captains after Espanyol had taken the lead. Shedding light on the moment, the manager said:
“I changed the tactic, and because of the loudness from the fans, I couldn’t talk to the players, so I wrote it on the paper.”
Barça ended the game with ten men again as Gerard Pique was sent off in stoppage time. When asked about the red card, Xavi stated: “It hurts us. We’re going to compete with what we have.”
There was another blow for the Blaugrana much earlier in the game as Ronald Araujo had to be taken off with an injury. The manager also gave an update on the Uruguayan’s situation saying: “We have to see if it’s just discomfort or something else…”
The centre-back was also involved in an unsavoury incident while on the bench when he made gestures towards the opposition fans. Xavi was asked about his take on the matter, to which he replied:
“We must always respect everyone, the referees, the fans… There are a lot of nerves during the match. If something has happened, we apologize. But I’m not aware of what he did, no.”
Hailing Luuk de Jong’s impact and professionalism, Xavi said: “Luuk de Jong is an example, and I say that in front of the squad. He’s a top professional. He’s a goal scorer and that’s why we brought him on. He’s had two chances and then scored another one.”
Talking about the things that the team need to improve, the former midfielder stated: “We give too many goals. These are mistakes we must minimize.”
As for him using Ousmane Dembele by bringing him on as a substitute late on, Xavi said: “I said yesterday he’s in the team and that helps us, he gave good minutes.”
Commenting on the objectives for the rest of the season, Xavi added: “We need to keep our goal this season, which is to qualify for the Champions League. This is a big step backwards, but we have to keep fighting.”