BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona lost its first match under Xavi Hernández on Saturday when it fell to Real Betis 1-0 at home just before its critical trip to Bayern Munich.
Striker Juanmi Jiménez finished off a well-orchestrated counterattack to take Betis’ winner in the 79th minute at Camp Nou.
Barcelona had won twice and drawn once since Xavi took over as coach from Ronald Koeman. The defeat left the team in seventh place and in danger of falling even further behind leader Real Madrid, which played at Real Sociedad later.
Barcelona visits Bayern on Wednesday needing a win to ensure its place in the Champions League round of 16. Bayern, which is already qualified as the group winner, beat Barcelona 3-0 in their first meeting this season.
If it loses, Barcelona would need Benfica to not beat Dynamo Kyiv to avoid elimination.
The high point of the day for Barcelona’s fans came before kickoff, when Barcelona player Alexia Putellas presented to the 65,000-plus fans her Ballón d’Or for the world’s best women’s player.
Otherwise, it was more frustration.
“It hurts because we should have at least taken a point today,” Xavi said. “Of course I am worried, I don’t like losing. But I don’t think we deserved to lose.”
Betis’ goal came just when Barcelona was playing at its best after Ousmane Dembelé went on as a substitute for the final half hour.
The winger, which the club wants to sign a new contract before his current one expires at the end of the season, ignited Barcelona’s attack. Three times he shot just by the post before Betis caught Barcelona on a three-versus-two breakaway.
Sergio Canales coolly drew in Barcelona’s last two defenders and passed for Cristian Tello, who fed the now unmarked Juanmi to slot the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
“Canales had the patience to create those spaces,” said Juanmi, whose nine goals are second in the league only to Karim Benzema’s 12 with Madrid.
“We have to stop those counterattacks,” Xavi said. “We had practiced just that, about when you have to make a tactical foul.”
Barcelona lost teen talent Gavi Páez in the 34th when he needed to be carted off after apparently feeling dizzy following the powerful impact of a ball to his head.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis rose into third place, right behind crosstown rival Sevilla, which beat Villarreal 1-0 thanks to a goal from Lucas Ocampos.
Sevilla and Villareal also have key Champions League matches this week. Sevilla must win at Salzburg to move on, while Villarreal plays Atalanta needing a draw to advance.
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