Barcelona’s Supercopa de Espana win was Xavi’s first trophy as a supervisor at Camp Nou, nevertheless it additionally held particular significance for Andreas Christensen.
After a tough begin at Barca following a bitter exit from Chelsea, the centre-back has lastly discovered his place within the crew — and backed that up with a primary piece of silverware at his new membership.
Christensen began alongside Jules Kounde within the heart of protection, with Ronald Araujo pushed to the fitting to deal with the specter of Vinicius Junior. The plan labored as Barca ran out 3-1 winners — Vinicius Jr. was nearly nameless and Real have been restricted to a late Karim Benzema comfort objective.
The Denmark worldwide performed a key position in Barca’s win. He had a 75 p.c duel success charge and misplaced possession simply twice, the fewest instances of any starter. Christensen additionally recorded a go completion charge of 98 p.c, with 62 of his 63 passes reaching their supposed goal, together with a 96 p.c success charge in Real’s half.
It was the final recreation during which Christensen impressed. Perhaps his greatest efficiency for Barcelona got here in a 1-0 win away to Atletico Madrid simply over per week in the past that took Xavi’s crew three factors clear at the highest of La Liga.
That is proven by the statistics. Christensen was the Barcelona participant with probably the most passes accomplished in that recreation, in line with FBref, with 86 (of 90 makes an attempt), forward of Kounde with 67 and Araujo with 62. He additionally had the second-most touches from both crew (100) , simply two behind Kounde.
He was simply as efficient in protection, working effectively with center-back companion Araujo — Christensen was the Barcelona participant with the second-most balls recovered (9), one lower than Pedri.
On the identical day, Christensen’s earlier membership Chelsea obtained thrashed 4-0 by Manchester City within the FA Cup.
Since dropping the center-back pairing of Christensen and Antonio Rudiger on free transfers to Barcelona and Real Madrid after their contracts expired final summer time, Chelsea have spent some huge cash making an attempt to strengthen their again line with out absolutely succeeding.
Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana arrived from Napoli and Leicester City, the latter for £70 million ($85.4m), however each have struggled.
Fofana has suffered damage issues. He limped off with a sprained knee ligament in opposition to AC Milan in early October and missed out on a possible place in France’s World Cup squad consequently. Once recovered, he re-injured his knee in a pleasant in opposition to Premier League neighbors Brentford through the break within the membership season for the match in Qatar. He is not anticipated to return till later this month.
Christensen skilled a disappointing finish to his Chelsea profession.
As The Athletic reported final May he was on the verge of renewing his deal in August 2021 after serving to them win the Champions League. There was confidence he would signal a five-year, £140,000-a-week contract, however a misunderstanding between membership and participant meant that did not occur.
According to a supply near Christensen, who needs to stay nameless to guard their place, the Dane was pleased residing in London, having initially signed for Chelsea in 2012 at the age of 16, however started to obtain indicators from the membership that he didn’t like.
During that point, Barcelona coach Xavi spoke twice with Christensen through video name to attempt to persuade him to maneuver to the Catalan membership. Christensen additionally felt there have been instances when there had been doubts about his capacity and that, having arrived at Chelsea at a younger age, he was destined to at all times be seen as an academy participant.
Christensen, 26, didn’t query his expertise however felt as if some at the membership didn’t belief his capacity to deal with high-pressure conditions and elite soccer. With Barcelona and Xavi’s calls making it clear how a lot he was wished at Camp Nou, the defender made up his thoughts.
He determined the time was proper, given Barcelona’s venture and Xavi’s type of soccer.
Christensen felt he could be given extra significance at Camp Nou and would play greater than he had for Chelsea — though that was not the case in his first few weeks in Catalonia.
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This was partly as a result of Xavi often experimented with his line-up within the first half of the season.
He tried Christensen in a again 4 in opposition to Rayo Vallecano of their first La Liga recreation — a goalless dwelling draw during which the defender was changed by Sergi Roberto within the sixtieth minute.
Xavi then did not play the center-back at all in two of the following three matches, earlier than he made his Champions League debut for his new membership by beginning in a 5-1 win over Czech outsiders Viktoria Plzen on September 7. He was rested the next weekend in opposition to Cadiz earlier than beginning away to Bayern Munich three days later, the place he was changed within the seventieth minute by Eric Garcia as Barcelona misplaced 2-0.
Christensen was spectacular, regardless of Xavi steadily rotating the Barcelona line-up given his massive squad.
In late September, fellow center-back Araujo suffered a thigh damage, which led to him present process surgical procedure. Then Christensen joined him within the therapy room, spraining a ligament in his left ankle within the 1-0 Champions League loss in opposition to Inter Milan at San Siro in early October. He returned per week earlier than the World Cup break started, approaching for the ultimate couple of minutes rather than Gerard Pique in a 2-0 dwelling win over Almeria.
He performed each minute of Denmark’s surprisingly poor World Cup marketing campaign — European Championship semi-finalists 16 months earlier, they went out at the group stage with a single level from their three matches — and scored an equalizer of their 2-1 loss to France, and has returned to membership soccer in spectacular kind, producing a stable efficiency within the metropolis derby in opposition to Espanyol on New Year’s Eve earlier than his defensive masterclass in opposition to Atletico and one other assured exhibiting on Sunday.
The numbers counsel Christensen ought to firmly set up himself as a first-choice center-back alongside Araujo. He has received his battle with Garcia and likewise appears to have displaced fellow summer time signing Kounde, who has typically performed out at right-back this season.
After the way of his departure from his previous membership and options within the Spanish press that Real Madrid had signed the higher Chelsea center-back, Christensen appears to be again to his greatest.
The distinction with Rudiger on Sunday couldn’t have been starker — whereas Christensen impressed at the guts of Barcelona’s protection, his former Chelsea teammate suffered a blow to the top after which produced a misplaced go within the build-up to his facet conceding their first objective. The Germany center-back was caught out of place and Robert Lewandowski might play Gavi by means of on objective with ease.
Most importantly from Barcelona’s viewpoint, they lastly appear to have a stable defensive platform on which to construct. Christensen will hope the Supercopa is simply the primary of many trophies with Barca.
Other writers: Paul Ballús and Simon Johnson
(Top picture: Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)