"Deserved to play", "He has done nothing wrong" - Barcelona fans fuming as Xavi benches key player for Atletico Madrid clash
Barcelona are set to face rivals Atletico Madrid in a must-win La Liga clash, and fans are unhappy with manager Xavi's decision to start Jules Kounde instead of Andreas Christensen for the encounter.
Reigning champions Barcelona find themselves seven points off the pace in La Liga after 13 matches, with Real Madrid and Girona leading the way (Barca have two games in hand). La Blaugrana are in fourth place, level on points with third-placed Atletico Madrid, having played one more game than Los Colchoneros.
Xavi's side need a win to close the gap on the league leaders, but Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid are in tremendous form. Xavi has chosen to go with summer addition Inigo Martinez alongside Jules Kounde at the heart of his defense, with Christensen dropping to the bench.
Christensen featured from the start in their last league match, a 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano away from home. The former Chelsea man was then dropped for the visit of FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League, and he has not been restored to the lineup.
Christensen has made 14 appearances for the side this season, recording one assist.
Barcelona fans on X (formerly Twitter) were unhappy with the manager's choice and expressed their opinions on the platform.
One fan stated:
"To be honest the Christensen benching is unwarranted. He has done nothing wrong and Inigo Martinez loses the ball too much with his diagonal passes."
"Kounde again??? Christensen deserved to play."
Andreas Christensen has been a key member of La Blaugrana setup since joining from Chelsea on a free transfer in 2022. The Danish centre-back has shown great quality in the team, and his absence could be felt against Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona need a win against Atletico Madrid to keep up with Real Madrid and Girona
After an impressive start to the season, Barcelona have fallen away in recent weeks with a number of uncertain performances. Defeats in El Clasico and in the UEFA Champions League to Shakhtar Donetsk have weakened their position in both competitions.
Xavi would have been aiming to retain the league title after his title-winning 2022-23 campaign, but finds his side in the chasing pack. They must now win against rivals Atletico Madrid or risk falling further behind in their pursuit of the title.
Injuries have been unkind to the Spanish champions, with a number of first-team regulars ruled out through injury. This has halted the rhythm of the squad since the start of the season, affecting their consistency.
Barcelona face Atletico Madrid on Sunday, December 3, before hosting neighbours and surprise league leaders Girona next Sunday (December 10). They must win both games to close the gap to the top of the table, or they could be out of the title race by the winter break.