Xavi reeling from Copa del Rey defeat as Barca confirm Fati thigh injury

By Sports Desk January 20, 2022

Xavi admitted his Barcelona team failed to match the intensity of Athletic Bilbao as they tumbled out of the Copa del Rey at the last-16 stage, another blow in a dismal season.

Barcelona may yet claw their way into the Champions League places in LaLiga, but their trophy pursuit looks doomed to failure. Beaten by Real Madrid last week in the Supercopa semi-finals, a 3-2 defeat after extra time against Athletic on Thursday was another bitter pill for head coach Xavi and his players.

Add in the blow of losing substitute Ansu Fati to what Barcelona described as "a femoral biceps injury in his left thigh", and it was a calamitous night at San Mames for the visitors.

Barca are out of the LaLiga title reckoning, and Europa League play-off opponents Napoli will surely fancy their chances of taking the Blaugrana's scalp on this latest evidence.

The defeat in Bilbao, where home captain Iker Muniain capped an inspiring performance with two goals, means Barcelona have failed to reach at least the quarter-final stage of the Copa del Rey for the first time since 2009-10.

This is also the first season since 2003-04, when they were in the UEFA Cup, that Barcelona have not featured in the Champions League knockout rounds. A group-stage exit saw to that.

Barcelona got what they deserved in Bilbao. The expected goals (xG) calculation, based on each team's chances, showed the gulf between these sides was wider than the final scoreline.

Athletic had an xG of 3.33, while Barcelona's was a miniscule 0.36. The home side had 19 shots to just seven by Xavi's team, and the 66.7 per cent of possession that Barcelona enjoyed was mostly lacking in end product.

Success has flooded into the Catalan giants in recent years, and Barcelona beat Athletic 4-0 in the Copa final only last April. Lionel Messi scored twice in that game, and Antoine Griezmann also netted. Both have now long since departed.

"In summary, I think Athletic's intensity surpassed ours," said Xavi. "In duels, in second balls. They lived each ball as if it were their last."

Athletic led through Muniain and Inigo Martinez, but Ferran Torres, with his first Barcelona goal, and Pedri, deep into stoppage time, replied for Barcelona.

A handball by Jordi Alba was punished by Muniain from the penalty spot near the end of the first half of extra time, and this time Athletic did not relinquish their lead.

"With Pedri's goal it seemed like it was our moment," Xavi said, speaking at a post-match news conference.

Muniain's penalty told the coach different, however.

"It seems that when things are heads or tails, we always get tails. We have to change the dynamic," Xavi added.

 

He was not minded to contest the penalty decision after the final whistle. Alba was struck on the arm by Nico Williams' cross, and with VAR guidance it was an obvious spot-kick.

Former Al Sadd boss Xavi, who took over the Barcelona top job in November, said his team would "fight" for their remaining objectives.

It remains to be seen when Fati is seen again in action. He looked distressed, tearful, on leaving the pitch barely half an hour after entering the action. That setback compounded the misery of a regrettable evening.

Speaking to Barca TV, Xavi said: "We need to continue believing in this project, continue in LaLiga and continue in the Europa League. This is the way, continue to keep going and working hard."

Related items

  • Rumour Has It: Man Utd plan another move for Wolves' Ruben Neves Rumour Has It: Man Utd plan another move for Wolves' Ruben Neves

    Ruben Neves is Erik ten Hag's number one midfield target in his first transfer window as manager at Manchester United.

    Neves, 25, signed for Wolves from Porto in 2017, and quickly asserted himself as a crucial cog in midfield.

    United made a move for the Portugal international in the January transfer window, and were rebuffed, but they reportedly prepared to come in with a much more substantial offer this time around.

     

    TOP STORY – RED DEVILS LAUNCH ANOTHER MOVE FOR NEVES

    After United's January offer of £35million was unsuccessful, The Sun is reporting Wolves will want in the range of £50m to sell star man Neves.

    Wolves have reportedly been preparing for life without Neves for some time now, and are targeting 26-year-old Sporting CP midfielder Joao Palhinha as his long-term replacement. They are also said to have strong interest in Benfica's Martim Neto, demonstrating the clear links their scouting department has with the Primeira Liga.

    However, United will have stiff competition for Neves' signature, with Barcelona reportedly keen. 

    ROUND-UP

    – Paris Saint Germain are open to Neymar leaving in the upcoming window, according to ESPN, with Chelsea named as a club that have interest.

    – The Star is reporting Benfica have told interested parties – including United – that striker Darwin Nunez will cost £100m.

    Bayern Munich will pay £25m for Liverpool's Sadio Mane as a replacement for Robert Lewandowski, per L'Equipe.

    – The Telegraph is reporting that Aston Villa will explore the possibility of signing manager Steven Gerrard's former team-mate, Luis Suarez, who is a free agent.

    Newcastle United have made enquiries about Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, and hope to add the France international to their attack for next season, according to The Telegraph.

  • Lautaro hopes free agent Dybala goes 'where he is happy' Lautaro hopes free agent Dybala goes 'where he is happy'

    Lautaro Martinez does not know where Inter-linked forward Paulo Dybala will play next season but hopes it will be "where he is happy".

    Dybala's contract at Juventus is expiring, making him one of the most sought-after free agents of the upcoming transfer window.

    Widespread reports have suggested he is most likely to join Argentina team-mate Martinez at Inter – although the Nerazzurri striker is also the subject of transfer speculation.

    But as the pair link up on national team duty, Martinez insists Dybala's club future has been set to one side.

    "We didn't touch the subject," Martinez told TyC Sports. "We talk about many things, about his situation and everything, but today he is thinking about the national team.

    "His future will be decided when these games are over.

    "He is a player with quality, personality and I hope he plays where he feels most comfortable, where he is happy."

    Martinez is also focused on his role with Argentina, looking ahead to the World Cup in Qatar later this year – the first of his Albiceleste career.

    "[The World Cup] is a dream I have had since childhood," Martinez said. "With my family, I constantly talk about this – they are all football fans.

    "If I think now about what could happen, anxiety comes to me. I hope we can leave a good impression.

    "These are dreams you always have. First your dreams are of being a professional, then they are renewed. Today I am months away from this [dream]; I hope it can be fulfilled and I can help my team-mates."

    Even before that, at the start of June, Argentina have the Finalissima against Italy at Wembley to look forward to, pitting the Copa America winners against the European champions – an eagerly awaited fixture for Italy-based Martinez, even if the Azzurri will not be in Qatar.

    "It will be an important game for us because of what the opponent means, beyond the fact that they have been left out of this World Cup," he said.

    "We know their characteristics, their players, they are a high-level opponent. We have a very important test ahead to see where we stand."

  • All-female coaching staff to oversee Jamaica camp for CONCACAF U15 tourney in July All-female coaching staff to oversee Jamaica camp for CONCACAF U15 tourney in July

    For the first time in Jamaica’s football history, a national squad will be overseen by an all-female coaching staff as 27 girls are called to camp to prepare for the CONCACAF Women U15 tournament set to take place in Tampa, Florida, from July 31 to August 7, 2022.

    The players will be directed by Head Coach Tashana Vincent and Assistant Coach Alicia James. Both women are former national representatives.

    Meanwhile, the squad of players will be comprised of Kimoy Harris, Kryshana  Reid, Ashley Lowrie, Cassandra Smith, Jada-Lee Bryan, Devonae  Lewis, Dejaunae  Lewis, Breanna  Marr, Schennel Goodhall, Adrianna  Morris, Shanae   Ashley, Sajane   Anderson, Italya  Robinson, Bianca McDonald, Destiny   Powell, Jennifer  Williams, Shiona   Ashman, Shantea  James, Lacey   Phillips, Jhonelle   Rose, Jamara   Jones, Dejonea  Smith, Felisha  Ferguson, Rishaune  Gordon, Elizabeth  Miller, Shereece Jameison and Chrisann Tomlinson.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.