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Barcelona: Xavi risked illegal lineup and forfeit in Granada draw

Barcelona risked forfeiting the game against Granada when Xavi hooked Ousmane Dembélé due to only having seven senior players left on the pitch.

Barcelona's French forward Ousmane Dembele (L) vies with Granada's Spanish defender Carlos Neva.

Ousmane Dembélé’s stuttering Barcelona career reached another low on Saturday night in the 1-1 draw against Granada. The France winger, who is stalling on a new deal at Camp Nou and is expected to leave in the summer – possibly for Bayern Munich – lost the ball on 14 occasions in Los Cármenes as the visiting side struggled to dominate with a covid-depleted squad. Such was Dembélé’s lack of precision that Barça boss Xavi felt obliged to remove the Frenchman immediately after Gavi was sent off for a second yellow to try and shore up the game with the score at 0-1.

However, had another Barcelona player been sent off in the aftermath of Gavi’s expulsion, under Liga regulations the visiting side would have forfeited the game. When Xavi sent on Álvaro Sanz to replace Dembélé, it left Barça with just seven senior first-team players on the pitch with three Barcelona B players – Sanz, Abde and Nico – making up the 10 remaining. Had one of Marc-André ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Dani Alves, Busquets, Memphis Depay, Gerard Piqué or Clément Lenglet also seen red or been forced off with injury, Barça would have had only six registered first team squad members on the pitch, below the minimum required by Liga rules, meaning the game would have been awarded in favour of Granada.

Xavi "knew risk" of Dembélé for Sanz sub

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Xavi had one more substitution remaining, but if a registered first team player had been sent off Barça would have still have been reduced to six as there were no senior players left on the bench. Both Memphis and Lenglet were already on a yellow, leaving Barça in a precipitous situation.

Xavi has been vocal in his opposition to games going ahead with teams barely able to fill the bench but he stated after the game that he knew what the consequences might have been. “It was a risk I decided to take. We needed to control the game. We needed to force turnovers. We took the risk because there were 10 or 12 minutes left and we wanted to have the ball.”


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