Barcelona face Real Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals in Saudi Arabia with a point to prove, if they are to back-up Joan Laporta‘s claims that they are back after their recent decline.
As it stands there are 17 points between Barcelona in sixth and leaders Real Madrid in LaLiga Santander so far this season, but Xavi Hernandez‘s young side remain optimistic that they are going in the right direction.
“This game is a huge opportunity to reach a final and it could be a turning point for us,” Xavi said during Tuesday’s pre-match press conference.
“Real Madrid are the most in-form side in Spain, the league table shows that, but this is another competition. The Clasico is always unpredictable.
“Reaching the final would represent a point of reflection. But whatever happens, we will be realistic. It’s an important game and a huge test, one which will show us where we are afterwards.”
Can Xavi break Barcelona’s Clasico hoodoo?
The last time that Barcelona beat Real Madrid was on March 2, 2019. In Matchday 26 of that season, the Blaugrana had Ernesto Valverde at the helm and Ivan Rakitic got on the scoresheet.
Since that win, though, Barcelona have been unable to win in the last five games between the two, losing the last four on the bounce.
Their most recent defeat came in LaLiga Santander on October 24, 2021, when goals from David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez gave Real Madrid a 2-1 win.
Xavi‘s charges come up against an in-form Real Madrid, who responded to their surprise defeat away at Getafe by securing victories against Alcoyano and Valencia.
Players returning at the right time
One source of optimism ahead of the game for Barcelona fans is the return of a number of first-team players that have been missing, either through COVID-19 or injury.
Ansu Fati, Frenkie de Jong and Ronald Araujo are fit and available for selection after overcoming their recent injury setbacks.
New signing Ferran Torres has finally been registered thanks to a contract renegotiation between the club and Samuel Umtiti, which means he is in contention to make his debut after testing negative for COVID-19.
Pedri also tested negative and could return to the starting line-up for the all-important Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Real Madrid. Xavi will be hoping that this game is the next step in bridging the gap that has seen Los Blancos pull away from Barcelona in recent years.