Xavi had plenty to like and much more to lament about Barcelona’s wild 3-3 draw at Celta Vigo on Saturday when his soon-to-be team squandered a three-goal half-time lead.
Playing their final match under caretaker coach Sergi Barjuan before Xavi takes over as the club’s new full-time manager, Barcelona roared out to a 3-0 lead after playing one of their best halves of the season.
But injuries to Ansu Fati and Nico Gonzalez, who were having inspired performances, and the resurgence of Barca’s defensive doubts, helped Iago Aspas lead Celta back with a second-half brace.
Aspas capped the comeback with one of the final kicks of the match when he scored from long range, while Barcelona were hunkered down in their box begging for the final whistle.
“We forgot we had to play the second half,” said a dejected Frenkie de Jong, who provided Barcelona’s only spark in the second half with a shot that hit the crossbar with the score at 3-2.
“We were too static, we need to show more character. This game was important to move up a bit in the table. It is a very hard blow.”
Barcelona remain in ninth place in La Liga.
The draw came hours after Barcelona announced that Xavi had agreed to re-join the club until 2024. That will free Barjuan to return to coaching its reserve team after three games in charge following the firing of Ronald Koeman.
Xavi will be presented on Monday and then have a two-week international break to settle in before the former Barcelona midfielder debuts on November 20 against Espanyol in a derby. He arrived to Barcelona earlier on Saturday after ending his stint at Qatari club Al-Sadd, first as a player and then as a coach.
Fati had to be replaced after netting Barcelona’s opener. Midfielder Nico, who was also having a superb performance, and defender Eric Garca, both went down in the second half. They joined an injured list that already included Pedri, Gerard Pique, Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Dest, Sergio Aguero and Martin Braithwaite.
Fati’s left thigh injury will likely rule him out of Spain’s decisive World Cup qualifiers next week against Greece and Sweden that they need to win to qualify directly for next year’s tournament in Qatar.
Sergio Busquets, Xavi’s old team-mate, doubled the advantage in the 18th minute with a rare goal for the veteran. The holding midfielder struck a fine curling effort from outside the area to put the ball just inside the post.
And Barcelona looked ready to record a big win after Memphis Depay sliced a header home from a cross by Jordi Alba after a key pass by Nico in the 34th minute.
But then the injuries came and Celta took the initiative when Aspas pulled one back in the 52nd minute, the striker finishing after Marc-Andre ter Stegen failed to clear from his area.
Barcelona were then on the defensive when Nolito’s 74th-minute header cut the deficit to one.
“This Celta never gives up”, Aspas said after he ignited the crowd at Balados Stadium with his goal.
Juan Cuadrado’s stoppage-time strike earned Juventus a 1-0 win over 10-man Fiorentina in Serie A on Saturday as the Turin club ended a three-match winless league run.
The Colombian substitute beat goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano at his near post with a powerful effort in the dying minutes to clinch victory, despite a poor Juve performance in which they failed to muster a shot on target until the 86th minute.
Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic’s dismissal in the 73rd minute injected some life into the home side as Federico Chiesa blasted a shot off the crossbar and Alvaro Morata had a goal ruled out for offside, before Cuadrado broke through at the death.
The result leaves eighth-placed Juventus on 18 points, level with Fiorentina above them.