Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Xavi hurls praise at Barcelona defender: ‘Never stop amazing me’

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Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has praised 18-year-old left-back Alejandro Balde after the defender provided two assists in the side’s 3-0 La Liga win over Elche on Saturday 17 August.

Balde started the game again at left-back, replacing Marcos Alonso and putting in another strong performance as Barcelona drove to a fifth straight La Liga win.

Xavi spoke about the teenager at his post-match press conference and made it clear how much he values ​​the defender. The manager also explained his decision to start the youngster ahead of more experienced options like Alonso and Jordi Alba, as reported by Diario Sport.

“I saw that they did a lot of individual coverage and Balde can generate superiority inside and out,” he explained. “It never ceases to amaze me that an 18-year-old boy is at this level. He has a lot of confidence and personality, he is in great physical condition and he will give us a lot.”

Balde has made five starts for Barcelona in La Liga this season and sees a bright future at the club. But his appearance could mean bad news for veteran defender Alba.

The Spain international has been a regular at left-back for almost a decade but is now adjusting to life on the bench. Alba has only started once in La Liga in 2022-23 and may have to adjust to a supporting role if Balde can continue his good form.

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Xavi also spoke about his team’s victory that saw Barca temporarily rise to the top of the league. The Catalans are a point ahead of Real Madrid who play Atletico Madrid on Sunday, September 18.

The Barcelona boss switched teams for the game, bringing in the likes of Franck Kessie, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong, admitting he will need to deploy his full squad given the fixture’s overloaded by the 2022 World Cup.

“In the end we are a very broad squad, everyone trains well and performs well. It’s an atypical year where the calendar is more compressed,” he explained. “We need the whole group, everyone has to be prepared. Whoever plays is up to the task. We’re in good momentum in terms of results and the game. We have choices and it is the teams that win the titles, not a starting XI.”

Memphis Depay certainly impressed with a rare start for the Dutchman. The forward scored his first goal of the season with an emphatic finish to commemorate his talent at the Camp Nou.

La Liga is now on an international break, meaning the bulk of Barcelona’s squad will leave the Camp Nou to play with their national sides before domestic competition resumes in October.

Barcelona’s next game is at Real Mallorca on Saturday, October 1.

READ MORE: Barcelona’s ‘Mini Messi’ beats Ansu Fati’s goalscoring record

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