La Liga: Xavi Hernandez praises Dembele

FC Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has said Ousmane Dembélé can achieve “big things” after scoring one goal and assisting three others in a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.

The French international opened the scoring in the 12th minute with an imposing header before providing assists for Sergi Roberto, Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres.

Dembele has dealt with a number of injuries since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for a transfer fee of $103.41 million. He was out of contract at the end of last season but signed a two-year deal in July to stay.

“Football is about making decisions, and you’re right or you’re not, and Ousmane was right today (Sunday). He knows how to play the game,” Xavi told reporters.

“He’s a great winger when he’s close to the touchline. Sometimes he performs well and sometimes he doesn’t, and today was a great day for him.

“He needs to try to be more consistent in every game. That’s why I pressured the club to re-sign him, because he is capable of great things.”

Barcelona are second in the standings with 28 points, three behind leaders Real Madrid and five ahead of third-placed Atlético de Madrid.

forgettable return

Athletic Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde was returning to Camp Nou for the first time after being sacked by Barcelona in January 2020.

The Basque team had a great start to the season, climbing to third in the standings by one point, but after four straight weeks without a win, they are in sixth place with 18 points.

After his side were completely outclassed in a 3-1 loss to Real Madrid last week, Barca manager Xavi Hernandez said he would shake things up and kept his word.

On Sunday, he switched from Barça’s usual 4-3-3 system to a 4-2-3-1 with Lewandowski as the initial target, giving Dembele space and creative freedom to thrive.

The hosts scored three times in 10 minutes in the first half, starting with Dembélé’s towering header in the 12th minute.

The French forward then put Roberto on a brilliant touch-building move in the 18th minute, with the Spanish defender’s goal ricocheting off a defender past a defenseless Unai Simon.

Four minutes later, Dembélé ran down the right channel before crossing to Lewandowski, who turned and finished with a strong kick.

fear of injury

After beating Villarreal midweek, Barça were on their way to another victory. However, there was concern for midfielder Gavi, who was in tears when he was substituted midway through the first half after taking a hit in the groin area.

The 18-year-old has become an important part of Xavi’s squad and is also a key component of the Spain squad heading to the World Cup in Qatar next month.

“It looks like it’s not serious, it was a big blow to the muscle, but we have to wait for the medical exam,” Xavi told Movistar Plus.

Barca took their foot off the gas after the break, but there was still time for Dembélé to provide another assist with less than 20 minutes to go, throwing the ball from the left wing for Torres to score from close range.

The resounding victory came with a price. Veteran defender Roberto has been ruled out for at least a month due to a dislocated shoulder.

Barcelona host Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday, before traveling to Valencia in La Liga on Saturday.

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