Xavi Hernandez was delighted to welcome Frenkie de Jong and Pedri back from injury as Barcelona got their title charge back on track with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid at Spotify Camp Nou on Sunday.

Ferran Torres scored the only goal of the game just before the break as Barca restored their 11-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga with eight games to be played.

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De Jong started after one month on sidelined and Pedri came off the bench in the second half to make his first appearance since getting injured against Manchester United in the Europa League in February.

“Without taking away anything from the other players, they are vital players for us,” Barca coach Xavi said in his post-game news conference. “They improve everything that comes to them. They understand our model of play, that’s why they are so crucial to what we do.

“Frenkie was brilliant this afternoon. Pedri also improves everything. He brings calm when the ball comes to him. For all the forwards, the presence of Pedri will improve them.”

After back-to-back stalemates against Girona and Getafe, the win over Atletico reaffirmed Barca’s place at the top of the table as they chase a first LaLiga title since 2019.

However, despite the size of their lead over Madrid, Xavi insists there is still work to be done.

“The outlook is good, but we are not champions yet,” he stressed. “Nothing is set in stone. We have another tough game on Wednesday at Rayo Vallecano.

“The players don’t feel like champions. If they do we will tell them that they are not yet.”

Barca could have killed the game off in the second half, but missed chances to seal the win through Gavi, Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski, who is now without a goal in his last four games.

“He was clinical for a large part of the season, now not so much, but the goals will come,” Xavi said when asked if Lewandowski’s form was a cause for concern. “All forwards want to score.

“Ferran will be the happiest person in the world tonight. Those that didn’t score will be sad. That’s the life of an attacker. But Robert is the top scorer in the league with 17, so imagine how the rest [of the league] feel.”

Atletico also had opportunities to score. Antoine Griezmann hit the bar after just 40 seconds, while the France forward was also denied twice by Marc-Andre ter Stegen on his return to Camp Nou, where he spent two years as a player.

Alvaro Morata then sent a late header wide before Atletico saw an appeal for penalty for handball turned down, leaving coach Diego Simeone to congratulate Barca on effectively clinching the title.

“It was a good game,” Simeone said. “The first half was the game we wanted to play, we had big chances to score. We weren’t clinical or we didn’t have the luck, when Griezmann hit the bar.

“They were clinical with their first chance. In the second half we were behind, we had to look for the equaliser, we grew with our substitutions, the game was back and forth, they had chances, we did too. We didn’t take our chances and the game got away from us.

“I liked the team, we looked confident, we knew what we had to do, we played the game we wanted more than they did, but we lost. We congratulate them, they’re on the way to the league title and they deserve it for sure, they’ve had a very strong league season.”

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Barcelona return of Pedri, De Jong vital for club, Xavi says