Barcelona Women’s Success Can Inspire Men’s Side

Barcelona boss Xavi Hernandez has said he wants to take inspiration from the club’s record-breaking women’s side when they host Sevilla on Sunday with the chance to move second in LaLiga. Xavi was in attendance at Camp Nou on Wednesday, sat with former teammate Carles Puyol, as a world-record crowd for a women’s game of 91,553 watched Barca beat Real Madrid 5-2 to reach the semifinal of the Women’s Champions League.

“I really enjoyed it,” the Barca coach said in a news conference on Saturday. “It gave me goosebumps. The atmosphere was spectacular. They deserved it.

“What I experienced really moved me. I hope it’s the same [on Sunday against Sevilla] for us. From the first day I’ve been here, the fans have responded.”

While Barca’s men have won just one Copa del Rey trophy during the last two seasons, the women’s side have enjoyed unprecedented success.

They beat Villarreal 6-1 on Saturday to make it 26 wins from 26 league games having already wrapped up the title and won the Spanish Supercopa.

With the Champions League and the Copa de la Reina still to play for, they could end the campaign with four trophies, one more than they won last year.

“I have a good relationship with Alexia [Putellas] and Aitana [Bonmati],” Xavi added. “I sent them both messages in the week after the game.

“[Coach] Jonatan Giraldez’s approach is really good. Their model of play has been sustaining the club. During the [last few] years, the women’s team has been an example.

“They compete well, they win… I was moved the other day at Camp Nou. It was an important step, but it can’t end there. Camp Nou has to be full again for the semifinal [against Wolfsburg].”

Under Xavi, Barca’s men are finally taking steps towards mirroring the women’s team. They have risen from ninth to third in the league since he took over and will leapfrog Sevilla if they beat them this weekend.

Barca’s title hopes were even given life before the international break with a 4-0 Clasico win over Madrid, but they remain 12 points behind the leaders, albeit with a game in hand. Madrid travel to Celta Vigo on Saturday.

“The Sevilla game is another final,” Xavi said. “It’s a big test and a chance to move second after a good run of results. We will also have an eye on events in Vigo, but I prefer to focus on what we must do. If there’s good news [with Madrid dropping points], it will be an extra motivation for us.

“The message to the squad is clear: the win over Madrid was only worth three points. We cannot relax. We want to finish as high as possible in LaLiga and go far in the Europa League.”

Barca will be without Luuk de Jong against Sevilla after the forward tested positive for COVID-19, while Sergi Roberto, Sergino Dest, Samuel Umtiti and Ansu Fati are all injured. Ansu has returned to training, but Xavi said he is not ready for competitive action yet.

Meanwhile, Xavi urged the club to renew the contracts of Gavi and Ronald Araujo, with both players’ deals up in 2023.

“They’re really important players,” he said. “The club cannot allow either of them to leave. I think their renewals are a question of time. I want to believe they will both reach an agreement and stay. I am optimistic.”

Barcelona vs. Real Madrid draws world record crowd for women’s soccer match

Barca won Wednesday’s historic game 5-2 and are headed to the Champions League semifinals. Women’s soccer reached a huge milestone Wednesday thanks to one of the sport’s deepest rivalries. The UEFA Women’s Champions League quarterfinal between Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou drew 91,553 supporters, an official world record for a women’s soccer match.

That attendance number far surpasses the previous official high for a club match: 60,739 for an Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona game at Wanda Metropolitano in 2019. It’s also higher than the crowd of 90,185 that attended the World Cup final between the U.S. and China at the Rose Bowl in 1999. There were also unofficial reports of 110,000 fans at the 1971 Women’s World Cup final between Mexico and Denmark in Mexico City.

Barcelona, the game’s host, repaid their fans’ historic support with a 5-2 win to reach the Champions League semifinals. After the game, Barca winger Caroline Graham Hansen chose to revel in the moment rather than look ahead.

“At the end of the match I had to hold my tears back because this is just too crazy,” said Graham Hansen, who scored the game’s final goal in the 70th minute. “It’s one thing to play at Camp Nou, but when it’s full, winning 5-2 in the Champions League and the fans aren’t leaving, they’re staying to celebrate with us. I did not imagine anything like it, goosebumps all over the place.”

This is only the second time Barcelona, who normally play their home games at the 6,000-seat Johan Cruyff Stadium, have played at Camp Nou. It is, however, the first time Barca has played at Camp Nou in front of fans, as the team beat Espanyol 5-0 there last season in a game closed to fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alexia Putellas, who led Barcelona to their first Champions League trophy last year and helped the team win its third consecutive Spanish Supercopa title this season, thinks Wednesday’s game can bring “the start of a new era.”

“I knew I could play football, but it did not seem accessible on this scale,” said Putellas, a team captain and 2021 Ballon d’Or winner, before the game. “That’s why this match can mark a before and after because Barca are the biggest club in the world and they have a voice.”

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