Barcelona fans are excited again as manager Xavi Hernandez's project to revitalise the club's fortunes is bearing fruit way before even the most optimistic supporter would have expected.
Unbeaten since its extra-time defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey on January 20, Barca travels to face Elche in the La Liga on Sunday, looking for a fourth consecutive win in all competitions, having scored four in each of their last three games.
A sense of euphoria is palpable at Camp Nou now that the side is back in the Champions League qualification spots having fallen as low as ninth back in November, when former coach Ronald Koeman was fired.
Xavi, the former Spain midfielder and 2010 World Cup winner who lifted 25 trophies as a Barca player left his role as Al Sadd coach in Qatar to lead what looked like a long-term rebuilding project. However, almost four months later, his Barca side has climbed to fourth in the standings with a game in hand over all its rivals and is the favourite to win the Europa League after winning convincingly against Serie A leader Napoli in their last-32 clash.
Barca is still 15 points behind leader Real Madrid but, with 13 games still to play, red-hot Barca may be wondering if there is still time to make a late-season run.
The January signings are working out well, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring for the third game in a row in the 4-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. French winger Ousmane Dembele has also been revitalised after scoring one and grabbing two assists against Bilbao, before receiving a standing ovation from jubilant fans having almost left the club in January.
With Real Madrid facing a feisty Real Sociedad on Saturday, with its focus on the decisive last-16 Champions League match against Paris St. Germain next Wednesday, the idea that Barca could launch a late run for the title is not as crazy as it would have been a month ago.
Latest on Sportstar
- Stuttgart wins playoff, prolongs Hamburg’s wait to rejoin Bundesliga
- French Open 2023: Last Argentine standing Etcheverry into quarterfinals
- Postecoglou ready and waiting to confound expectations at Spurs
- Champions League final won’t define career, De Bruyne
- French Open 2023: Double bounce mistake was umpire’s fault and not mine, says Rune