Barcelona qualified for next season’s Champions League with their 2-1 win over Real Betis on Saturday, something that at one point earlier in the campaign looked like being a real challenge. Typically, Barcelona made hard work of it at the Benito Villamarin, but this is another win against a perfect side. As Xavi pointed out after the match, Barca have now beaten all the teams in the top 10 since he took over.
Earlier, Barcelona had taken the lead with a first goal since January for Ansu Fati in the 76th minute. But Betis reacted quickly as former Camp Nou defender Marc Bartra headed home a corner just three minutes later.
After the game, Xavi was full of praise for Ansu Fati, making it clear just how highly he rates the attacker.
“Ansu has a gift, others find it more difficult. It’s a great feeling to have him back,” said the coach. “The goal was something we had talked about this week regarding the Betis defensive line. He’s a difference-maker. He just needs half a chance to score, even with a bad shot.”
Xavi made three changes from the side that beat Mallorca last week. Marc Andre ter Stegen was unavailable through illness, and Neto took his spot in between the sticks. Eric Garcia replaced the injured Gerard Pique in central defence, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was benched for Ousmane Dembele in the attack.
Barcelona players gave their Real Betis counterparts a guard of honour before kick-off following the hosts’ recent Copa del Rey win over Valencia.
It was an entertaining game, with Ronald Araujo’s header tipped onto the bar by Betis keeper Rui Silva, and Betis’ Guido Rodriguez striking the post.
Second-placed Barca are now 11 points clear of Betis, who are fifth, with three games to go. They were ninth when Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman in November.
“It’s a weight off our shoulders,” Xavi said afterward. “It could have been an even tougher season but the team has competed well since we arrived in November.
“We have not always played excellently, but we have a winning spirit and we are competitive. We’ve been all the other top half teams in the second half of the season. It’s clear we have to pay better. We have to analyse things. But the effort has been huge since November. We’re in the Champions League, a competition we deserve to be in, now we want to finish second.”