·6 February 2023
·6 February 2023
Barcelona manager Xavi has made the strange claim that Real Madrid remain the favourites to win the La Liga title, despite now being eight points ahead of Los Blancos in the table.
The Blaugrana's lead over their arch-rivals was extended on Sunday as they comfortably beat Sevilla 3-0 at the Camp Nou, while Real Madrid suffered a shock 1-0 defeat away at mid-table Mallorca.
With just one defeat and seven goals conceded in 20 games so far, it's hard to see Barca surrendering their commanding position. However, with just under half the season to go, there's no time for complacency and Xavi believes Madrid's status as defending champions still counts.
"I see ourselves as candidates to win the league, but the favourite is always the defending champion. It's Madrid, and we can't lower our intensity at any moment. They can beat anyone," the retired midfielder told reporters after Sunday's win.
"This team has the capacity to win every title we're competing for. But we can't only say it, we have to show it. Words mean nothing. There have been crazy comebacks in La Liga before. We have to avoid that at all costs.
"I still don't think we're the favourites for La Liga. We're only in February, and we have tough matches upcoming. The euphoria is nice, but we have to be cautious.
"I don't know if we're the most reliable team in La Liga, but we're in good form, sure. We can't let our guard down. Our work is starting to show. The players believe in themselves and they believe in us."
Xavi believes his players have taken inspiration from beating Real to win the Supercopa in January, with Barcelona winning all six of their competitive matches since then by a 13-1 aggregate scoreline.
"Beating Madrid in the Supercopa gave us a lot of confidence," he added. "There were a lot of players that hadn't won a title before that. As the good results come, the players start to believe more in the technical staff.
"We have to remember where we came from, where we were a year ago... to where we are now. Normally we struggle a lot against deep blocks but today we created a lot of chances."
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