Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez was full of praise for center-back Ronald Araujo after seeing his team come from behind to beat Elche in La Liga on Sunday, March 6.
Second-half goals from substitutes Ferran Torres and Memphis Depay secured a comeback win for the visitors that takes the team into third place in the table ahead of Real Betis’ clash with Atletico Madrid.
However, it was Uruguayuan center-back Araujo who Xavi chose to praise after the match, particularly for the way he is now bringing the ball out of defense, as reported by Diario Sport.
“Maybe Araujo is the player who has improved the most since I took over, above all with the ball because he is taking risks … He is driving (forward) with the ball. Today he was the free man,” he said. “There were times he was the advanced midfielder. He’s changed how he plays, which is what we demand, and is gaining weight within the team. Without the ball, he’s one of the best in the world, with the ball he had to improve. It’s fundamental for him and the team.”
Araujo has cemented his status as a key part of the starting XI season under Xavi and has formed a strong partnership with Gerard Pique in the heart of the Barcelona backline.
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Xavi Talks Barcelona Options
Xavi also spoke about his options after seeing two substitutes come off the bench to score for Barcelona. Ferran arrived at half-time in place of Gavi, while Memphis replaced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the second half.
The coach also sent on Adama Traore for Ousmane Dembele and said afterwards that while he enjoys having plenty of options to choose from, he is finding it difficult to leave players out of his starting XI.
“It’s hard for me to leave players out because they don’t deserve it. I feel really bad. But I have to make decisions for the good of the team. Riqui (Puig), who we spoke about yesterday, Eric Garcia, Oscar (Mingueza),” he said. “Today Martin Braithwaite’s not in the squad and he doesn’t deserve that. I have a range of options and I am delighted with the players I have. Adama came on and did well today as well, Ousmane was fantastic.”
Barcelona’s last five goals have all come from substitutes. Two of those goals have come from top scorer Memphis, who now has 10 for the season, following his return to the side after injury.
Xavi Plays Down Francisco Spat
Xavi also played down a brief spat with opposite number Francisco at the full-time whistle. The two managers were spotted in a heated debate on the touchline, but Xavi insisted it was not a major incident.
“We spoke, nothing else,” he said. “Don’t give it any importance. These situations happen in the heat of the moment, but it’s nothing. I have the utmost respect for Elche and for Francisco.”
Elche appeared to have been angered by a number of refereering decisions late on in the game. Barcelona’s winner came from the penalty spot after the hosts had been penalized for handball, while the Catalans escaped a handball appeal at the other end minutes later.