Xavi Hernandez says Barcelona are not dependent on Pedri after the youngster produced another game-changing performance in Sunday’s thrilling 3-2 win over Levante.
Pedri, 19, scored the only goal in last week’s 1-0 win against Sevilla and he came off the bench against Levante to score Barca’s second goal as they came from behind at the Ciudad de Valencia stadium.
« I wouldn’t say that, » Xavi said in his post-game news conference when asked if Barca suffer from « Pedridependencia, » a term previously reserved for Lionel Messi.
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« Look, he’s an extraordinary player. Don’t skimp on the praise for him. He’s a player that excites me and one that can make a difference. He’s scored a great goal [against Levante]but I don’t think there is [a dependence on him]. »
Xavi has asked Pedri to shoot more and his goal in Valencia took his tally to five for the season in 21 appearances, one more than he managed in 53 outings last term.
Pedri missed half of the current campaign with an injury, but his comeback in January has coincided with Barca’s return to form under Xavi, with the Blaugrana rising from ninth to second in the table under the Catalan coach.
Sunday’s win was Barcelona’s seventh in a row in LaLiga, but they came close to dropping points in a pulsating game against Levante, who were awarded three second-half penalties.
Jose Luis Morales scored the first, but Roger Marti saw the second saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, just moments before Pedri, along with 17-year-old Gavi, was introduced.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leveled the score and Pedri and Gavi connected to hand Barca the lead before a third penalty, converted by Gonzalo Melero, looked to have earned a point for the relegation-threatened home side.
However, there was a late twist when substitute Luuk de Jong headed home a 93rd-minute winner, his seventh goal of the season and his fifth since Xavi was appointed.
« Luuk is a great option, » Xavi added of the super sub. « I would not say he’s playing a secondary role. I am happy [for him] because he’s an example for everyone, how he trains, his professionalism … That’s why we have these types of players.
« It was a difficult game because Levante press high, they go man for man. We were better in the second half, but we didn’t play well — we must be self-critical.
« Even so, we competed and had players that made the difference, like Luuk and Ter Stegen, so I am satisfied. There is a winning mentality and they are three golden points. »
Barca remain second in the table, 12 points behind leaders Real Madrid with one game in hand but just eight to play.
« Winning the league is still difficult, » Xavi conceded. « Madrid don’t slip up. If they drop points in the next two weeks… »
Barca are back in action on Thursday at home to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarterfinal before they host Cadiz in LaLiga next Monday. Madrid, meanwhile, travel to third-placed Sevilla on Sunday.