FC Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has denied that his team are champions in waiting after they beat Real Madrid 2-1 in El Clasico on Sunday night but felt they were “far superior” to their bitter rivals.
After falling behind early when Ronald Araujo scored a shock own goal, the Catalans rallied back to equalize through Sergi Roberto on the stroke of the half time whistle before Franck Kessie scored a stoppage time winner.
This stretched Barca’s points lead to 12 at the summit. But even so, Xavi refused to accept that the Blaugrana have effectively wrapped up their first title in four years.
“We do not feel like champions, but it is a very important step,” Xavi said in a post-match interview.
“We have won points. In fact, we have only lost ten in the whole league [season] and that is not by chance. We have been very solid in defense and on top of that tonight we have been very good in attack.”
“It is a very important and deserved victory,” Xavi remarked before this. “We deserved this result that reflects what the game was, because we were far superior to Real Madrid. We dominated, we had more chances and we were better than them. It’s a victory that gives us a lot of morale and a lot of confidence.”
Given a tough choice as to who would be the attacking midfielder in Pedri’s absence, Xavi admitted that he had “doubts until the last minute between one and the other” when it came to picking one of the two goalscorers to start the match.
“They were the two options and both have gone well,” he explained further of Kessie and Roberto.
“Both have scored and have emerged victorious. I don’t know what to say about Sergi anymore. We don’t value him, but this is the sadness of this club. He’s always been an example and as a coach it’s spectacular to manage him.”
Though a furious Carlo Ancelotti revealed he has “doubts” about a goal by Marco Asensio that could have given Madrid the lead yet was ruled offside, Xavi said he was “surprised” by this “because it is a scientific question”.
“It’s a clear offside and there’s no doubt,” he added.
Above all, though, Xavi wanted to congratulate his men because everyone worked hard for the win in his opinion.
“There is little talk that we are making an extraordinary league [campaign] and I am very happy for my players, because they suffer with criticism.
“We have emptied ourselves against a great team that was showing all its power in the last few games. Real Madrid is a team that always complicates your life, but we have managed to mature [as] the game [went on].
“It had been five years since we beat Real Madrid at home and on top of that we conceded an unfair goal, but we knew how to react.
“We must not forget where we came from. Last year we were 15 points behind Real Madrid and now we take twelve [ahead of them]. It’s time to value things,” Xavi demanded.