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Xavi put Pedri next to Iniesta and Barcelona were eight points clear with a victory over Real Betis.


Xavi praised Pedri after Barcelona went eight points to the top of La Liga by beating Real Betis, comparing the midfielder to Spain’s “greatest talent” Andrés Iniesta.

Goals by Rafinha and Robert Lewandowski boosted Barça’s title chances as they won 2-1 at the Benito Villamarin Stadium on Wednesday, with the Blue Garnet holding on after a late own goal by Jules Kunde.

While Pedri missed two decent opportunities before Rafinha’s opener, the 20-year-old created two chances and made a game-high 30 passes in the final third during an impressive performance.

Speaking after Barcelona stepped up pressure on title rivals Real Madrid hosting Valencia on Thursday, Xavi praised the diminutive midfielder.

“He is a player of a different level, I have seen very few like him,” Xavi said. “He is talented, he is at the level of Iniesta, but Andres had continuity to the point where he is still playing.

“Andrés is the greatest talent I have seen in Spanish football, but Pedri is very similar to him. He can change something, he is already doing it.”

Pedri wasn’t the only youngster to shine for Barça, as Alejandro Balde recorded his fourth assist of the season from left back with Rafinha’s goal.

Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala (six) is the only under-20 player to have scored more goals against his teammates in Europe’s top five leagues this season, and Xavi is thrilled with the young defender’s potential.

“I am very happy for Balde, he has great potential both in defense and in attack,” Xavi said. “He gives us superiority in management, which is very hard to see in football.

“He needs to use his potential even more, we encourage him to be transcendent, he is both a full-back and a winger.

“Fortunately we have three impressive full-backs in Marcos. [Alonso], [Jordi] Alba and Balde. He’s so young and has such ability, it’s a pleasure to watch him play.”

Barça’s win took them to 50 points after 19 games in the campaign. The Blaugrana have scored half a century of points by mid-season five times (in the 2008–09, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2013–14 and 2017–18 seasons), failing to win the title only once. at the same time (in 2013-14).

However, Real Betis manager Manuel Pellegrini felt that his side was up to the mark and was ruined by a free-kick taken from the wrong position in preparation for the first leg.

“It was a balanced game that anyone could win and it was decided by two standards. The first goal is controversial,” said the former Manchester City manager.

“First there was a foul on Aitor Ruibal and they didn’t give him away, then they moved the foul 20 meters further than they should have and took us by surprise.”


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