Barcelona make a statement with big win at Real Madrid
The Barcelona players had just returned to the locker room when Gerard Pique posted a message on Twitter.
“We’re back,” it read.
Pique and his teammates remained on the pitch at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium to celebrate the team’s 4-0 victory over Real Madrid in the Spanish league. They jumped and sang along with the few hundred fans still visiting the mostly empty venue.
Inside, coach Xavi Hernández waited to hug each player as they returned.
“Vamos, vamos! (Let’s go!)”, was the common exchange.
It was the type of statement Barcelona needed in a difficult year of rebuilding after Lionel Messi left and their finances collapsed.
The road rout against the team’s biggest rival – who comfortably led the Spanish league and had just knocked out Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League – reassured Barcelona that they were on the right track .
“It can change the dynamics of the present and the future,” Xavi said. “We haven’t had much to celebrate lately and today we made a statement. You can tell we’re on our way back. We faced Real Madrid at their stadium and we would have been able to win with more goals. It was spectacular.
Barcelona have finally found their groove after a slow start to the season, which included elimination from the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup.
Xavi has revamped Barcelona’s attack and it has flourished recently with a more vertical attacking style that damages opponents with quick and effective bursts.
The club have beaten their opponents 24-5 in their last eight matches in all competitions, thanks in part to new signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres. Aubameyang scored twice and Ferran added another on Sunday to take his combined total to 15 goals since joining the club this year.
“I think it’s the start of a new era,” said Aubameyang, 32, who was signed as a free agent after losing space at Arsenal.
Shortly after the match, he took to Twitter and posted the message: “Hello from finished player.”
Ronald Araujo scored Barcelona’s other goal against Madrid, who had won the last five consecutive clásicos.
“It strengthens our project, strengthens our style, strengthens me as a new coach,” Xavi said. “There is no doubt that this is how Barcelona have to compete.”
Xavi neutralized Madrid after his counterpart Carlo Ancelotti tried to use Luka Modric as a false nine to replace the injured Karim Benzema, Madrid’s best player this season and the league’s top scorer.
“We were able to play well behind the lines when their midfielders progressed and that allowed us to create plenty of scoring chances,” Xavi said. “This win gives us great confidence to keep working hard. We have shown ourselves that we can compete with anyone.
Ancelotti took responsibility for the loss, saying his tactics were wrong. He tried to use Mariano Díaz up front in the second half but that didn’t work either. Eden Hazard was on the bench but didn’t play.
“I told the players it was my fault,” said the Italian. “It was not a good plan. Barcelona played better and deserved the win.
Barcelona’s impressive rout has also drawn praise outside of Spain.
“It was a pleasure to watch this amazing performance tonight,” Bayern Munich striker Thomas Muller wrote on Twitter.
The victory prevented Madrid from opening a 12-point lead over second-placed Sevilla with nine games remaining. Barcelona are 12 points behind with one game less. The Catalan club had been close to the middle table at the start of the season.
“They let us dream of winning the league, and dreaming is free,” said Barcelona veteran Dani Alves, who made his 400th appearance for the club on Sunday.
Barcelona’s next league match will be at home to Sevilla who are three points clear. Barcelona are also in the quarter-finals of the Europa League after failing to get past the Champions League group stage for the first time in almost two decades.
“You have to stay humble. We didn’t win a title today,” said Xavi. “We celebrate from time to time and we have to start thinking about our next game.”
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