After the first 45 minutes, Xavi will have had flashbacks of the tiki-taka passing of the old Barcelona, with his own midfield presence pulling the strings. Except on Sunday against Sevilla, one thing was missing: the end product.
So, at halftime, Xavi made a tactical change, swallowing his pride and asking his players to be more incisive by blasting the ball into the penalty area rather than passing it through a packed-in opponent.
It worked to perfection, and Barcelona ran away with the second half, victorious via a 3-0 scoreline to shed Sevilla with ease and move eight points clear at the top of the La Liga table.
Real Madrid’s slip earlier in the day provided the opening, and Barcelona capitalised on the situation as they move even further ahead in the Spanish league title race.
An under-fire Raphinha and spot-starter Jordi Alba were the two most influential players after the break, each picking up a goal and assist to spark the win.
Barcelona will be sweating the fitness of veteran Sergio Busquets, who went down with a nasty ankle turn just five minutes into the match, but replacement Franck Kessie picked up a great assist on Alba’s opening goal, and was able to replace the fallen captain well.
Sevilla provided almost no resistance across the 90 minutes, dominated from start to finish on possession.
They were able to frustrate the hosts through the first half, but after the break couldn’t deal with the repeated crosses and diagonal balls into their penalty area.
At one point, Jorge Sampaoli threw Ivan Rakitic up front as a False 9, a perfect encapsulation of their desperation to find an attacking solution, but there ultimately was none.
Xavi’s side found solutions to their problems there and were thoroughly deserving of their victory. The Barcelona coach will be particularly delighted about Raphinha’s performance in the second period.
With Ousmane Dembele out, it is now on the Brazilian to step up and deliver. His quality as a player demands it.