Leaders Barcelona made it eight wins in nine LaLiga matches as Pedri’s second-half goal secured a slender 1-0 victory over Girona on Saturday.
Xavi’s side struggled in the first half at Estadi Montilivi, with their frustration compounded by the loss of Ousmane Dembele to injury before the break.
They improved after half-time and sealed three points just past the hour when Pedri marked his 100th appearance for the club with his fifth league goal of the season.
The result moved Barca six points clear at the league summit, although Real Madrid can reduce the deficit back to three when they host third-placed Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Barca suffered a blow in the 26th minute when Dembele pulled up holding his left leg, with the France international replaced by Pedri.
The 20-year-old midfielder initially did little to spark life into Xavi’s spluttering side, who went in at the break having mustered just two tame efforts on target.
He came to the fore following the interval, though, tapping in from close range in the 61st minute after Paulo Gazzaniga failed to deal with Jordi Alba’s low cross from the left.
Girona responded well to that setback, with Michel’s side putting significant pressure on the Barca backline in the closing stages.
An unmarked Ivan Martin inexplicably fired wide from six yards late on, with the visitors ultimately scraping maximum points as they bid to win their first title since the 2018-19 season.
What does it mean? Barca avoid major slip-up
Xavi said it would be a “catastrophe” if Barca did not beat Girona, and for 60 minutes it looked like that might be the case.
Step forward Pedri, though, who was in the right place at the right time to slide home an easy finish that cranked up the pressure on Madrid ahead of their clash with in-form La Real on Sunday.
A quarter of the game had passed when Pedri was introduced, yet no player on the pitch had more shots (two). The talented Spain international has scored with 72.7 per cent of his shots on target (8/11) since Xavi was appointed as Barca boss – the highest ratio of anyone who has scored at least six goals in this period.
Raphinha’s struggles continue
Raphinha endured a difficult outing, taking just one shot before he was replaced by Franck Kessie late on. The Brazil international has now scored just twice in 17 LaLiga appearances during his maiden campaign for the Blaugrana.
Key Opta facts
– Barcelona have won 44 points after 18 games played in LaLiga 2022-23 (W15 D2 L1). In four of the previous five seasons they have had as many points at this stage of the campaign they have gone on to win the title (2008-09, 2010-11, 2012-13 and 2017-18), failing to do so only in 2013-14.
– Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in four consecutive games in all competitions for the first time under Xavi and for the first time since March 2021. The Blaugrana have kept 14 clean sheets in LaLiga this season, two more than any other side in the top five European leagues (Juventus and Newcastle United have 12 each).
– Barcelona’s six goals conceded after 18 games played in LaLiga 2022-23 is the second-best record at this stage of a season in the history of the competition, only behind five concessions by Deportivo La Coruaa in the 1993-94 season.
– Ansu Fati has been starter in four consecutive LaLiga games with Barcelona for the first time in his career in a single season.
– Barcelona have played eight games in calendar year 2023 without losing, the highest record among teams in top five European leagues (GP8 – W7 D1).
Barca hit the road again on Wednesday when they visit Real Betis, while Girona are next in action a week on Sunday when they host Valencia.