FC Barcelona have finally received a player that head coach Xavi Hernandez said will “change the face of the team”.
Spirits are again high in the Catalans’ camp following Saturday night’s last-gasp win at Real Sociedad.
Just a week ago, Xavi and his men were deflated after losing El Clasico 2-1 to Real Madrid. They were the best team for a good hour against their bitter rivals at the Montjuic Stadium, but then succumbed to late Jude Bellingham double that stole the win deep in injury time.
Heading to San Sebastian trailing Girona by seven points and Los Blancos by four, Barca had to wait until the same stage of the game to seal their own 1-0 win.
Ilkay Gundogan, heavily critical of his teammates for what he deemed to be a lack of concern in the locker room following the Madrid loss, set up Ronald Araujo with an inch-perfect cross to head home the winner in the 92nd minute.
Xavi was critical of his team’s display post-match and stated that they didn’t deserve the win in Anoeta.
Still, not playing well yet taking home the points is what champions are all about, as Xavi added, and keeps the Blaugrana on course to retain their La Liga title come May even if they currently linger in third.
Aside from the morale boost, Barca were given a further lift by the return of Pedri from injury.
The number 8 hadn’t been seen on the pitch since late August when he picked up a muscle injury in training yet was introduced in the 57th minute to great effect.
Though his impact wasn’t instant, Pedri was able to show signs of the magic that has made him essential to the Barca cause and wonderfully linked play in some instances through cunning trickery and patience.
SPORT said that he “changed the face of the team” and Xavi also predicted he would in a general sense post-match.
“Today it was difficult for him to get into the game because of the intensity, but he came back well and this is great news for him and for the whole team,” explained the coach.
Against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday, the Tenerife native could start the Hamburg fixture if Xavi doesn’t wait until a November 12 home meeting with Alaves.