2nd October, 2022
Xavi made LaLiga history as Barcelona extended their unbeaten away record during his reign to 18 games, but the coach saw room for improvement in a 1-0 win at Real Mallorca.
The victory moved Xavi past Zinedine Zidane for the best unbeaten start away from home by a coach in the Spanish top flight, with the Frenchman having reached 17 games (W13 D4) in the competition without a defeat on the road in 2016 at Real Madrid.
Xavi’s streak includes 13 wins and five draws, but Mallorca pushed Barcelona hard, and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to be sharp to preserve another clean sheet.
That is five consecutive shut-outs for Barcelona in LaLiga, and Saturday’s victory took them to the top of LaLiga with 19 points from seven games.
Real Madrid, due to play Osasuna on Sunday, have launched their title defence with six consecutive wins and are set to have the chance to reclaim top spot.
The first Clasico of the season is just two weeks away, however, and this early-season rivalry is boiling up nicely before that meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Xavi said of his team’s win, which was secured by Robert Lewandowski’s ninth goal in seven league games: “It was a very complicated game. These are three very important points, especially after the [international] break.
“In games like this, if you don’t score the second [goal], it can become complicated. We’ve done well by showing patience and calmness.”
He added: “It was difficult for us. In the first half we were good, in the second [our level] went down and we can’t allow that. We have to go for the second goal and be more ambitious.”
The away run is something that Xavi takes pride in rather than shying away from, and he sees it as a step towards something more significant.
“It’s an important record that hopefully translates into titles,” he said. “If it translates into titles, it tastes better, but since there aren’t any, it’s anecdotal.”
That much is true, and it might be that Barcelona need Lewandowski to stay prolific throughout the campaign if they are to topple Madrid from their perch.
“Once again he made the difference,” said Xavi, who also added praise for Barcelona’s defence in a game in which they were given plenty to do.
Mallorca had a higher expected goals (xG) total than Barcelona (1.0 to 0.7), reflecting the quality and number of their chances. The hosts edged the shot count 13-11 too, with Lee Kang-in going close to a late leveller.
“It was a solid game, without shining, but we took three very important points,” Xavi said.
Lewandowski has reached nine goals in his LaLiga career quicker than any player in history. He might get to 10, 11, 12, and goodness know how many more goals quicker than anybody too, such has been his smooth transition from Bayern Munich to Barcelona.
“He’s a goalscorer, a top player, one of the best players in the world, if not the best,” Xavi said. “In addition to scoring, there is how he works, presses instructs others and talks to team-mates.”