Barcelona faces a critical test against Valencia in LaLiga this Saturday, with their recent Champions League defeat by Royal Antwerp and a 4-2 setback against league leaders Girona intensifying scrutiny on coach Xavi Hernandez. Despite topping Group H, Barcelona's lack of a discernible game pattern, defensive vulnerabilities, and persistent mistakes have drawn sharp criticism, even from staunch supporters like the Catalan newspaper Sport. Reports of club president Joan Laporta's interference in team selection have added to Xavi's challenges, with the coach expressing concern and emphasizing the need for improvement.
Xavi's worries have been compounded by a dispirited performance against Antwerp, acknowledging the team's discomfort and a string of negative results. The upcoming match against 11th-placed Valencia becomes pivotal, as another defeat could escalate pressure on Xavi and his players. Currently in fourth place, seven points behind Girona, Barcelona faces a critical juncture in their LaLiga campaign, with a need for self-reflection and improvement emphasized by Xavi.
Girona, riding a wave of success with one draw and nine wins in their last 10 matches, has surged to the top of LaLiga. Coach Michel Sanchez expressed satisfaction with his players, noting their historic achievements. Real Madrid, currently in second place, has an opportunity to claim the lead if they can beat 13th-placed Villarreal on Sunday. Carlo Ancelotti's side, after being held to a 1-1 draw by Real Betis, is eager to regain the top spot and build on a successful Champions League group stage, where they secured a clean sweep of victories.
Ancelotti expressed contentment with Real Madrid's performance in the first part of the season, reflecting on their recent 3-2 win over Union Berlin. As they aim to ascend to the top of LaLiga, Real Madrid faces a crucial clash with Villarreal, looking to maintain their momentum and solidify their position in the league standings.