Madrid, Nov 18 (EFE).- With the curtains drawn on the international break, LaLiga Santander is back with the long-awaited return of Xavi Hernandez, now as the coach of FC Barcelona and with the monumental task of steadying a ship whose course lags far behind Real Sociedad, Real Madrid and Sevilla.
Having left his managerial role at Qatar’s Al Sadd earlier this month, the former Spain and Barcelona legend faces soaring expectations as the possible saviour of the club presided over by Joan Laporta.
The 41-year-old will be in the spotlight from the off as he leads Barça into a home derby against an in-form Espanyol, who sit level on points with their cross-town rivals.
Xavi takes over from where Ronald Koeman left off. Barcelona are sat in ninth following a poor run of games, 11 points behind LaLiga leaders Real Sociedad, 10 behind Real Madrid and Sevilla and six behind defending champions Atlético de Madrid.
Espanyol have not won at the Camp Nou since February 2009, when a double from ex-Barcelona midfielder Iván de la Peña led them to victory over their arch-nemesis.
It will be also the first opportunity to see Xavi’s approach and what kind of players he will choose, including those who have recovered from injury over the international break.
During his official presentation as head coach, he said there was no other alternative to winning under his command.
“We cannot draw or lose. I’ve been at Barça for half my life and when we drew or lost, this was a funeral,” he said.
Xavi will surely now pursue the dream of leaving his mark at the club, emulating the likes of Pep Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.
As with other club legends who return to manage their beloved teams, Xavi will embark on this new era knowing that defeat will be that much more bitter, but victory will be sweet.
Saturday night’s match at the Camp Nou marks a turning of the page for Barcelona, but with the future uncertain and the club’s coffers almost dry, only time will tell if salvation or failure awaits.