Barcelona seeks to put behind its disappointing restart after the break

A disappointing restart after the World Cup break has caused concern in Xavi, the Barcelona coach, ahead of his game this weekend, in La Liga against Atlético de Madrid.

Barca visit Atleti on Sunday, after two poor results, including a draw at home against Espanyol, their rival from the same city. The loss of those two points caused the Catalan team to no longer lead the table alone.

The Barcelona side also struggled against third-tier Intercity in the Copa del Rey round of 32 on Wednesday, losing the lead three times before advancing after extra time.

“We can’t leave happy, we have to be more forceful”, acknowledged Xavi. “It has happened to us a bit like against Espanyol. We have not sentenced, we have been good in the game, we have reached the area, but in attack we failed a lot. In our area we have not been good either”.

The strategist’s concerns have been aggravated by the inability to count on the star striker Robert Lewandowski, who is suspended, against Atlético.

The Pole, leading scorer in the campaign, played against Espanyol while Barcelona appealed the three-game ban imposed on him before the World Cup. But a court upheld the suspension on Wednesday, and Lewandowski will miss the next three league games.

“I haven’t thought yet who will be number 9 on Sunday,” said Xavi.

The likely replacement would be Ferran Torres or Memphis Depay. Both started in the game that Barcelona narrowly won 4-3 against Intercity on Wednesday. Torres has often come off the bench and has been a starter at times.

Depay has just a handful of appearances this season.

Ansu Fati started the match against Espanyol and collaborated as a replacement against Intercity, to score the winning goal in extra time. He is expected to start again on Sunday at the Estadio Metropolitano.

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The 1-1 draw against Espanyol left Barça with the same points as Real Madrid at the top. The two greats of Spanish soccer are nine points ahead of Real Sociedad, which is third, and 11 above Atlético, which is fourth and recently ended a losing streak that had started before the World Cup.

Los Colchoneros beat bottom club Elche 2-0 to end a three-game winless run in La Liga. On Wednesday, they advanced in the Copa del Rey with a 2-0 win over second division club Oviedo.

Atleti have been unbeaten at home against Barcelona since 2019. The Catalan club won 4-2 last year, the last time they faced the mattress entity in La Liga.

OTHER PARTIES

Real Madrid, which is behind Barcelona on goal difference, visits a Villarreal team on Saturday that has won three straight games after the World Cup and is in seventh place.

Real Sociedad will seek to extend their number of wins in a row in different competitions to six on Sunday when they visit Almería.

Athletic Bilbao plays on Monday at the Osasuna stadium, while Real Betis visits Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, which has just been eliminated in the Copa del Rey by Sporting de Gijón from the second category.

Sevilla, who have had a disappointing start to the campaign, will try to move out of the relegation zone on Sunday when they host Getafe.

Elche, the only team that has not won after 15 dates, receives Celta de Vigo this Friday, threatened with the loss of the category.

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