x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Xavi a concern for Barcelona coach Guardiola

Pep Guardiola was thrilled with his side's second-half fightback to beat Valencia, but admits he is worried by the fitness of the Spain midfielder.

Barcelona's Xavi, left, has been plagued with injury problems.
Barcelona's Xavi, left, has been plagued with injury problems.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was thrilled with his side’s second-half fightback to beat Valencia 2-1 at the Camp Nou, but admits he is worried by the fitness of Xavi after the Spain midfielder limped off 13 minutes from time.

Xavi was returning from an Achilles problem and was instrumental in Barca’s comeback, setting up the goals for Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol to cancel out Pablo Hernandez’s 37th-minute strike.

But the 30-year-old was clearly in pain late on and was replaced by Javier Mascherano after 77 minutes - and Guardiola fears his playmaker may be restricted to a less regular role in future.

“My feeling is that he won’t be able to play week in, week out, but we will see how he is and how the problem evolves over time,” he said after the match.

Xavi is now doubtful for Barca’s Champions League match at home to FC Copenhagen on Wednesday.

“We will see how he is when he gets up tomorrow, but we won’t take any chances,” Guardiola said.

Barca could have won by a greater margin in the end, but the striker David Villa was unusually wasteful in front of goal against his former club.

Nevertheless, Guardiola backed his summer signing to come good.

“He has scored so many goals in his career,” he said. “He has the will and the determination to be a big success and he’s working very hard - I’m pleased with him.”

And Guardiola was even more pleased with his side’s comeback.

“It was an extraordinary performance in the second half,” he said.

“In the first half we were outplayed, we were too slow, we were beaten to the second ball and we didn’t close down well enough, but I was delighted with how we came out in the second half.”

The win saw Barca leapfrog pre-match leaders Valencia at the top of the table, although the Catalans dropped to second later on as Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid thrashed Malaga.

“They are the leader of our group in the Champions League and it’s such an important game - it’s the second most important one after the Spanish Supercup (in which Barca overcame a 3-1 first-leg deficit to beat Sevilla 5-3 on aggregate).

Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain scored twice each as Real beat Malaga 4-1 for their most convincing away win of the season season and one that took them to the top of the Primera Liga.

Ronaldo was instrumental in each Madrid goal, feeding Higuain after 30 minutes before sending Mesut Oezil’s pass into the empty net in the 45th.

In the 60th minute, Ronaldo struck a penalty past goalkeeper Rodrigo Galatto for his league-leading sixth goal. Kris Stadsgaard scored for Malaga in the 55th but Ronaldo slid a pass to Higuain 10 minutes later for the fourth.