Jordi Alba scored an extraordinary volley and Dani Alves was sent off as Barcelona delivered a major boost to their hopes of finishing in La Liga’s top four on Sunday by winning a six-goal thriller against Atletico Madrid.
“The team, the fans and the club, in general, needed a win like this,” said Xavi. “It could be a turning point, we can’t hold back now.”
Atletico coach Diego Simeone said: “If we took advantage of our opportunities everyone would be saying how good our counter-attack was. Their effectiveness has prevailed today.”
Atletico took an early lead through Yannick Carrasco but Barcelona came storming back, Alba equalising with surely one of the goals of the season before Gavi, Ronald Araujo and Alves all struck to leave Atletico facing an annihilation.
Instead, Suarez headed in and Alves was sent off as tempers flared.
But Barcelona held on, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, signed from Arsenal, coming on off the bench to make his debut in the second half.
With Barcelona in containment mode, Aubameyang’s influence was limited and it was another January signing, Adama Traore, who made the biggest impact with an electric first-half performance.
Barca were ninth in the league, six points behind Atletico in fourth when Xavi was appointed coach.
Now, they are in the driving seat to seal qualification for the Champions League, which would be so crucial to their financial recovery.
Traore, a La Masia graduate, and fellow new signing Ferran Torres both started but Aubameyang was only deemed fit enough for the bench, along with Ousmane Dembele, who Xavi welcomed back into the fold despite threats of exile from the club.
Dembele is yet to extend his deal, which expires in the summer, and the Frenchman was whistled before kick-off and not brought on in the second half.
“I was going to bring him on but the situation changed after the red card,” Xavi said. (AFP)