A game where even the cagiest of periods were crucial on dictating the victor, FC Barcelona managed to scrape past Girona with a singular goal. Tense as it was, the Catalan derby victory now ensures some breathing room for Barcelona at the top of the La Liga Santander table, at least until Real Madrid welcome Real Sociedad for their upcoming game.
Barca v Girona: First Half
Despite what most predicted, Xavi Hernandez ended up playing a starting eleven that saw very minute rotations taking place. Sergio Busquets, Jules Kounde, Gavi, and Frenkie De Jong were amongst those that could have potentially been rested for this game but ended up starting instead. The inclusion of these players was a clear message from Xavi: Every game will be taken with the utmost priority.
However, regardless of the attempt to field a relatively strong eleven, the key pieces such as Alejandro Balde, Pedri, Andreas Christensen, and the suspended Robert Lewandowski surely ended up contributing to the rather abysmal performance that took place before our eyes.
Holding onto possession as they typically tend to do, Barcelona accumulated nothing in terms of generating goal threats or coming into dangerous positions to influence the game. Moreover, Barcelona also ended up losing Ousmane Dembele to injury within the first 30 minutes of the match, with the Frenchman now reportedly looking doubtful to be available for Xavi against Manchester United for the first leg of their Europa League tie.
Statistically generating a woeful xG of 0.19 in the first half, Barcelona were particularly non-existent in front of the goal. They were helped by the fact that Girona themselves were having a dull day at the office as well, having themselves just generated an xG of an even inferior 0.15.
Following the first 45 minutes, Xavi’s men needed a change of mentality and quality on the pitch to get a win out of this game in order to continue their stride towards the La Liga title.
Barca v Girona: Second Half
Yet none of those changes were there to be seen collectively apart from the substitutes themselves rising to the occasion on the basis of their respective individual brilliance.
Pedri and Jordi Alba both connected and linked up to score the only goal of the game around the 60th minute, and this goal would end up being the crucial game-winner for La Blaugrana, courtesy of both the young and veteran Spaniards.
Generating an improved xG of 0.97 in the second half, Barcelona were met by equal if not better resistance and retaliation from Girona themselves.
In particular, the final 15 minutes or so saw the home side attack Xavi’s side with a constant flurry of attacks that on another day could easily have seen Barcelona concede on way more than just one occasion. This rather scary onslaught of offensive barrages had culers on the edges of their seats, as Girona generated attack after attack of a much higher potency than Barcelona were able to generate across the entirety of the game.
With Ter Stegen snuffing out whatever 50/50 balls he could, and Kounde showcasing his own heroics to deny Girona any more leeway than they already were able to bypass with, Barcelona were able to hold out the opposition and come out as the rather unconvincing victors.
This grueling victory over Girona highlights the slight decline in Barcelona’s recent performances and may end up being a cornerstone for Xavi’s men to seek improvement. Now on a total of 47 points accumulated from a total of 18 games, FC Barcelona now possesses a 6-point lead over 2nd placed Real Madrid, who are currently on 41 points from 17 games.
Their rivals from Madrid next face a tough test against Real Sociedad in La Liga Santander, a fixture where the latter winning or managing even a draw would be beneficial to Barcelona themselves.