Football: Soccer-Xavi has red-hot Barcelona primed for late-season run


MADRID (Reuters) – Barcelona followers are excited once more as supervisor Xavi Hernandez’s mission to revitalise the membership’s fortunes is bearing fruit approach earlier than even essentially the most optimistic supporter would have anticipated.

Unbeaten since their extra-time defeat to Athletic Bilbao within the Copa del Rey on Jan. 20, they journey to face Elche in LaLiga on Sunday, trying for a fourth consecutive win in all competitions, having scored 4 in every of their final three video games.

A way of euphoria is palpable at Camp Nou now that they’re again within the Champions League qualification spots having fallen as little as ninth again in November, when former coach Ronald Koeman was fired.

Xavi, the previous Spain midfielder and 2010 World Cup winner who lifted 25 trophies as a Barca participant left his function as Al Sadd coach in Qatar to guide what regarded like a long-term rebuilding mission.

However, nearly 4 months later, his Barca facet have climbed to fourth within the standings with a recreation in hand over all their rivals and are favourites to win the Europa League after profitable convincingly towards Serie A leaders Napoli of their last-32 conflict.

They are nonetheless 15 factors behind leaders Real Madrid however, with 13 video games nonetheless to play, red-hot Barca could also be questioning if there may be nonetheless time to make a late-season run.

Their January signings are understanding nicely, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring for the third recreation in a row of their 4-0 dwelling win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

French winger Ousmane Dembele has additionally been revitalised after scoring one and grabbing two assists towards Bilbao, earlier than receiving a standing ovation from jubilant followers having nearly left the membership in January.

With Real Madrid dealing with a feisty Real Sociedad on Saturday, with their concentrate on their decisive last-16 Champions League match towards Paris St Germain subsequent Wednesday, the concept that Barca may launch a late run for the title will not be as loopy as it might have been a month in the past.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Toby Davis)

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