Barcelona took another big step towards Champions League qualification as Memphis Depay and Sergio Busquets scored superb goals in a 2-1 LaLiga win over Real Mallorca.
Looking to avoid a fourth consecutive home defeat, the Blaugrana calmed a nervous Camp Nou crowd through Depay’s excellent first-half volley on Sunday.
Busquets then fired a low effort beyond Sergio Rico and the Catalan giants held on for the win despite Antonio Raillo’s 79th minute goal.
After being forced to watch rivals Real Madrid win the title on Saturday, Xavi’s side at least look likely to join them in next season’s Champions League after moving back into second place.
Rico was forced into an excellent save after five minutes, diving to his right to turn away Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal-bound header, before Fer Nino squandered a fantastic opportunity for the visitors when firing over at the back post from close range.
Ronald Araujo saw a powerful 22nd-minute header ruled out for offside, but the Blaugrana did take the lead three minutes later when Depay expertly volleyed into the bottom-left corner after controlling Jordi Alba’s ball over the top.
The hosts lost Gerard Pique to injury before the break, but doubled their advantage after 54 minutes when Busquets drilled a left-footed effort into the bottom-right corner after striding onto a loose ball on the edge of the area.
2 – Sergio Busquets has scored two goals in his last five games for Barcelona in all competitions, as many goals as in his previous 122 appearances for the club. Captain. pic.twitter.com/JjCtmRGD78
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 1, 2022
Depay went close to another brilliant goal when he shot narrowly wide from range after dancing through the visiting midfield, before Barca had another goal ruled out by VAR after Ferran Torres’s shot deflected in off Aubameyang in an offside position.
Xavi handed Ansu Fati his first appearance since November from the bench, as the hosts clung on for a vital win despite Raillo prodding home from Salva Sevilla’s cross.
What does it mean? Blaugrana end Camp Nou misery
Barcelona had seen much of the positivity surrounding the club dissipate after suffering three consecutive home defeats for just the second time in their history, but bounced back to secure three precious points.
In doing so, Xavi’s side stretched their lead over fifth-placed Real Betis – who have a game in hand – to nine points with four matches to play, taking a huge step towards sealing a Champions League spot.
Alba assumes creative role again
Having teed up Depay’s goal, Alba has recorded nine assists in La Liga this season, the best such record managed by a defender in the competition since Real Madrid’s Marcelo registered 10 in 2016-17.
Alba’s return also represents the best managed by a Barca defender since Dani Alves teed up 11 goals in the 2011-12 campaign.
Depay shows his worth
Although Barcelona’s push for Champions League football has seen January arrivals Aubameyang and Torres star in the attacking positions, Depay provided a reminder of his quality by striking a terrific opener.
The Dutchman has now scored 11 goals in LaLiga this season, more than any other Blaugrana player.
Barcelona’s next outing sees them travel to Betis for a huge contest on Saturday, while Mallorca host fellow strugglers Granada on the same day.
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