Two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, along with one each from Ronald Araújo and Ferran Torres, crystallized Barcelona’s rapid improvement under Xavi Hernández in a 4-0 win at Real Madrid on Sunday. Real Madrid still lead La Liga by nine points from Sevilla – Barça are a further three behind in third – but the old rivals now appear to be moving in different directions.
“We didn’t expect this result, but our objective was achieved. We came to win and show what we are worth,” Sergio Busquets said. “If we still have a small chance to make a run for the title, we will fight until the end. It’s very difficult but in football anything can happen. We are Barça.”
Shortly after the game, Gerard Piqué posted “We are back” on social media, while Aubameyang lauded “the beginning of the new era” – and their manager did not disagree. “Maybe we can say we’re back,” Xavi said. “This is the path to follow. This is the way we want to play. It was a complete performance. We were much better than Madrid. We played almost as the home team at their ground.”
Xavi was not entirely satisfied, though. “You have to run, you have to help the full-backs, you have to press,” he said. “It was 4-0 but in another game it could be 1-0 and losing the ball could cost us. A game of football lasts 90 minutes.
“I get really angry when we lose the ball. You can lose the ball in the final third, but not in your own half. If you drop the demands, you don’t get results.”
But, overall, the 42-year-old was pleased with his players and hopeful for the future. “We could easily have scored five or six,” he said. “We changed the negative dynamic of losing the last few classics. It’s a day to enjoy, not only as a Barça manager, but also a fan.”
He continued: “We have worked hard for these results. But we didn’t expect to be so superior in their stadium. We expected a more open game. I am very happy. We have to keep working. It’s not a trophy. We have to be humble.”
He was already looking towards Barcelona’s next game, on Sunday 3 April: “We’ll celebrate today and then we have to rest and think about Sevilla. It’s three more points.”
Xavi does not think the title race is over, hailing a “great kick in the teeth” for Madrid. “We can’t rule out anything,” he added. “Maybe we’re a bit late, but this is a very big win for us. We’ve won tonight and we also have the better head-to-head record, but it is going to be very difficult. Madrid have only lost three league games. They have to lose three more. We must keep working hard. The first objective is to qualify for the Champions League.”
While Xavi accepted the plaudits, Carlo Ancelotti took responsibility for his team’s failings. “It isn’t difficult to explain. They played better than us,” the Real Madrid manager said. “We wanted to control the ball more, to press them high, but it didn’t work… it’s my fault.”
He continued: “We weren’t recognizable. Everything went badly. We have to forget it and look forward, we have a big lead.”
While Nacho wondered whether Madrid relaxed because of the size of their lead, Ancelotti preferred to analyze his tactical approach. “The plan with Modric was to try to play the ball out from the back and find space between the lines with Rodrygo, Valverde and Vinicius,” he said. “It didn’t work. It isn’t a problem for me to take responsibility. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t. I failed.”
But the context of the defeat was not lost on him. “We’d have taken this at the start of the season, being nine points ahead and in the Champions League quarter-finals,” he said. “I’m really sorry and I’m very sad, but the nine points give me balance.”