Barcelona coach Xavi reached 100 league games in charge of the club with a 2-0 win over Almeria, and although being on the verge of a second-place finish in LaLiga, he made it clear that he wants to win championships.

Xavi, who last month reversed his decision to leave the club at the end of the season, said he is concentrating on the future with changes already in mind for the club.

"I have every ambition to win titles. The economic situation is not the best and we are working to reverse it. We are planning the next season and I see it as an opportunity," Xavi told a press conference.

"We are getting the games ready to play the Super Cup next year. I really want Barca to win titles again.

"This year we haven't competed well enough to win them, but we've come close. I'm eager, excited and ambitious."

Xavi spent 17 years at Barcelona, making 767 appearances and winning 25 trophies, including four Champions Leagues and eight LaLiga titles.

Despite being a club great and winning LaLiga last year as coach, he has come under pressure this season after failing to catch Real Madrid, who have already secured the title, and losing to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals.

There are also the challenges of a bloated wage bill and a 1.6 billion euro ($1.7 billion) renovation project at the Camp Nou stadium.

But Xavi is clear that the club will fight to change.

"It's not an easy or pleasant situation. We want to win titles and we haven't done our homework, but we have a very good squad and I am happy with the level of ambition of the players," he added.

"We tell the players the importance of finishing second, but I want to compete and fight for titles."

Fermin Lopez's brace sealed a 2-0 win over bottom side Almeria on Thursday, with Barca now four points clear of Girona in third, with two games to play.

"I'm happy to help the team with goals and for the win, which we needed. We're going to fight for second place until the end and we're on the right track," said Fermin.

Barcelona remained on track to finish second in LaLiga after Fermin Lopez's brace sealed a 2-0 win over bottom side Almeria on Thursday.

Fermin gave Barca an early lead in the 14th minute when he headed past goalkeeper Luis Maximiano from Hector Fort's accurate cross.

Despite efforts from Cesar Montes and Lucas Robertone, Almeria were unable to find an equaliser.

Fermin netted his second from Sergi Roberto's cross to wrap up the win for Barca in the 67th minute.

Xavi's side are on 79 points, four clear of Catalan rivals Girona, whose hopes of finishing second are fading fast after Tuesday's 1-0 defeat to Villarreal.

Real Madrid, who have already clinched the title, continue to pull away from Barca after a 5-0 win over Alaves on Tuesday.

Data Debrief: Holding the Fort

Fort provided the assist for Barca's opener, his second assist of the campaign in LaLiga.

Three players aged under 20 have provided an assist in LaLiga for the Blaugrana this term – Lamine Yamal (four), Fort (two) and Gavi (one). That is not a statistic matched by any other team in Europe's top five leagues.

Sergi Roberto came to Barcelona’s rescue with a brace to finally see off rock-bottom Almeria 3-2 as the LaLiga champions returned to winning ways.

The hosts looked set to stretch their winless run to four games in all competitions after twice being pegged back by opponents still in search of their first league win of the season.

But the 31-year-old latched on to a through-ball from Robert Lewandowski in the 83rd minute to grab the points which take his side back within four points of second-placed Real Madrid.

Xavi’s men were overwhelming favourites as they aimed to shrug off their recent poor run, and they started on top.

Joao Felix floated a free-kick just over the crossbar then Sergi Roberto saw his first chance well saved by busy Almeria goalkeeper Luis Maximiano.

Joao Cancelo was next up with an effort that he drilled straight at the keeper, before Fermin Lopez headed over from Ilkay Gundogan’s pinpoint cross.

Sergi Roberto blasted over from long-range on the half-hour mark before Barca finally made their seemingly inevitable breakthrough three minutes later when Ronald Araujo’s deflected effort fell to Raphinha who fired it into an empty net.

Lewandowski almost doubled Barcelona’s lead before Almeria snatched their chance to level four minutes before the break, Leo Baptistao lofting the ball over advancing Barca keeper Inaki Pena and surviving a VAR check.

Baptistao had a chance to put his side in front before the break but dragged an effort wide and normal service resumed early in the second period with substitute Ferran Torres and Lewandowski both denied.

Sergi Roberto grabbed his opener on the hour when he met Raphinha’s corner with a header at the near post to put Barcelona back in front.

But the lead lasted barely 10 minutes before the hosts were undone by a calamitous error by Pena, who dropped the ball in a collision with Araujo, allowing the alert Edgar Gonzalez to slide it into an empty net.

The hosts responded well, Araujo making up for his part in the equaliser by heading just wide, before Gundogan contrived to somehow miss his chance with the goal at his mercy.

Sergi Roberto finally grabbed what proved to be the decider in the 83rd minute when he ran on to Lewandowski’s ball through the middle to seal three hard-earned points.

Lewandowski almost added a fourth and the captain was denied a hat-trick deep into added time when his effort rattled back off the woodwork.

Ireland levelled the one-day international series against Scotland with a 79-run victory in their second match in Almeria.

After winning the toss, Ireland opted to bat and opener Leah Paul helped put her side in a strong position, enjoying a second-wicket partnership of 70 with Amy Hunter (56) before being caught and bowled by Priyanaz Chatterji for 58.

Hunter’s dismissal left Ireland on 188 for three but Orla Prendergast kept the runs flowing, eventually falling lbw for 64 to Scotland captain Kathryn Bryce, who then claimed her second wicket of the innings with the capture of Ava Canning.

Ireland skipper Laura Delany finished unbeaten on 28 to set Scotland a target of 271, but despite a solid start from Sarah Bryce and Darcey Carter, they then lost three wickets within 16 runs as Bryce fell for 23 followed by Carter (16), before Chatterji was out for a duck.

Kathryn Bryce then piled on the runs, smashing 67 off 58 balls before being bowled by Freya Sargent, and the spinner clipped the top of leg stump to dismiss new batter Lorna Jack with her very next delivery.

Ailsa Lister tried to dig Scotland out of a hole but wickets were tumbling fast at the other end.

Lister was eventually removed for 47 as Canning picked up her fourth wicket of the game, and the dismissal of Olivia Bell left Scotland all out for 191 as Ireland wrapped up a comfortable win with 11 overs to spare ahead of the final ODI on Saturday.

Osasuna sealed European qualification for the first time in over a decade-and-a-half, as Real Valladolid were relegated on a gripping final day of the season in LaLiga.

With champions Barcelona, as well as Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad having wrapped up Champions League football, the continental spaces were mostly settled before Sunday.

But a Europa Conference League berth was still at stake, with Osasuna, Athletic Bilbao, Girona and Rayo Vallecano all in contention.

Ultimately, Jagoba Arrasate's Osasuna took the spoils with a 2-1 win over Girona, as Ernesto Valverde's Athletic finished two points adrift following a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid.

A solitary point for Los Blancos was enough for them to secure second ahead of rivals Atleti, who conceded a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal.

At the other end of the table, it was Valladolid who finished Sunday where they started in the relegation zone, joining Espanyol and Elche in dropping to the second tier.

Their goalless draw with Getafe was not enough as Cadiz, Valencia and Almeria also played out stalemates to secure survival, the latter needing a late equaliser to do so.

Celta Vigo, meanwhile, jumped from 17th to 13th with an impressive 2-1 win over Barcelona, making them the only relegation-threatened side to claim three points on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti compared Karim Benzema's relationship with Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo to the one the striker shared with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, after his first-half hat-trick helped Real Madrid down Almeria.

Benzema needed just 42 minutes to complete another treble in a 4-2 win over the LaLiga strugglers, benefitting from fine assists from Vinicius and Rodrygo before converting a penalty.

Rodrygo then added a spectacular fourth from range, while goals from Lazaro and Lucas Robertone ensured Almeria kept the scoreline respectable at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

After the game, Ancelotti was asked whether Madrid's current forward trio could match the talents of those who fired Los Blancos to four Champions League titles in five seasons between 2013-14 and 2017-18.

"It's a good question," the Italian said. "They are similar in effectiveness and quality, with different characteristics of the players. 

"It's a different trio, but they are both very good. The 2014 trio was very dangerous and the trio now is also very dangerous."

Having also scored hat-tricks in resounding wins over Real Valladolid and Barcelona this month, Benzema has three trebles in eight games for Madrid – as many as he hit in his previous 120 club matches.

Asked about the Ballon d'Or holder's display, Ancelotti said: "Benzema is in good shape and he has shown it. 

"In attack we are very good, we are dangerous. Even while we are well behind [in LaLiga], the team comes out very well in offensive terms."

Karim Benzema scored a first-half hat-trick as Real Madrid beat Almeria 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu to move within eight points of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

After Girona and Rayo Vallecano dealt the top two surprise midweek defeats, Madrid had the chance to cut Barca's lead – at least temporarily before the Blaugrana face Real Betis. 

Benzema ensured they seized that opportunity in emphatic fashion, benefitting from excellent assists from Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo before stroking home a third from the penalty spot. 

Lazaro and Lucas Robertone netted either side of a long-range fourth from Rodrygo as Almeria fought gallantly, but Madrid were ultimately deserved winners.

Benzema was heavily involved from the off and had already tested Fernando Martinez by the time he opened the scoring five minutes in, tapping home after Vinicius darted down the left to cross with the outside of his boot.

His second, arriving after 17 minutes, owed much to Rodrygo, who turned Samu Costa with a brilliant piece of skill before teeing up Benzema to sweep home.

Largie Ramazani headed wide as Almeria sought a response, but the winger was then at fault as Benzema clinched his hat-trick, tripping Lucas Vazquez to allow the Frenchman to convert from the spot.

Almeria clawed one back on the stroke of half-time, Lazaro tapping in Ramazani's low cross from the left.

But any hopes of a comeback were extinguished within three minutes of the restart, when Rodrygo rifled into the top-right corner after finding space on the edge of the area.

Almeria hit back again when substitute Robertone headed past Thibaut Courtois, but Madrid remained in control – twice going close to a fifth when Benzema shot against the post and Eduardo Camavinga had a header ruled offside.

Carlo Ancelotti has called on officials to dole out "justice" to prevent Real Madrid winger Vinicius Junior from being targeted by aggressive opponents.  

Vinicius has contributed 18 goal involvements (10 goals, eight assists) during another fine campaign in LaLiga, but the Brazilian has repeatedly received harsh treatment from opposing defenders.

The winger was the centre of attention once again during Tuesday's 4-2 defeat at Girona, being booked for his furious reaction after Santiago Bueno aggressively kicked the ball against him.

Vinicius has drawn 113 fouls in LaLiga this season, comfortably the highest tally in the competition – Rayo Vallecano's Isi Palazon is second with 87.

Vinicius has also been targeted by racist chants from opposing supporters on multiple occasions this term, causing LaLiga to release several statements in support of the 22-year-old.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's fixture against Almeria, Ancelotti repeated his calls for Vinicius to receive more protection on and off the pitch, saying: "He's a player that dribbles one-on-one. In order to stop these players, people stop them with fouls.

"We are concerned for our player, and the only way to preserve these players is justice. Only this can prevent injuries from happening.

"It's true that Vinicius suffers a lot of nasty tackles. In the past there were other players, like Diego Maradona and Pele, who also suffered a lot from these challenges.

"We have been very lucky that Vinicius has a strong physique and is capable of enduring them. He has not had any injuries.

"There are two topics – one inside the pitch and one outside the pitch. One of them, on the outside, is bad for society. A modern society cannot be like that."

With Madrid trailing Barcelona by 11 points at the top of LaLiga, some have suggested Ancelotti's own future could be dictated by his team's ability to defend their Champions League crown.

Ancelotti has previously expressed a desire to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu until the expiration of his contract in 2024, and the Italian repeated that intention on Friday.

Asked whether he needed to lead Madrid to a 15th European Cup/Champions League title to keep his job, Ancelotti said: "That is not so. 

"My future is already written, I'll stay until 2024. After that, I don't know."

Barcelona coach Xavi acknowledged he was "very p***ed off" by his side's loss to Almeria, as the Blaugrana suffered just a second LaLiga defeat of the season.

A superb first-half finish from El Bilal Toure secured the spoils for the hosts at Power Horse Stadium, lifting them out of the relegation zone as they dealt a blow to the league leaders.

Despite the result, Barca remain clear at the summit, seven points ahead of rivals Real Madrid, who they meet in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie on Thursday.

But that cushion did little to stem Xavi's ire afterwards, with the Spaniard sparring little excuse for his team's lacklustre performance.

"[I am] very p***ed off," he said. "We played the worst game of our season, especially in the first half. We lacked intensity and rhythm.

"We didn't show passion to win the game. In the second half, we were better, but it was a difficult game. We are still leaders by seven points.

"We made mistakes and we apologise to the fans. It will be difficult to win LaLiga, but we have to change the chip now [for the Copa del Rey]]."

Xavi played down suggestions his side showed a lack of passion in their efforts however, suggesting it came down more to a tired team suffering from a recent heavy schedule.

"We noticed a bit of fatigue," he added. "That's why we have made rotations. That's why we have changed players. We've played a lot of games.

"But a golden opportunity has been lost. We could have had 10 points [as a lead]. It has been a bad day."

Barcelona suffered a shock loss to lowly Almeria as the leaders' 13-game unbeaten run in LaLiga came to a grinding halt in a 1-0 reverse.

El Bilal Toure's first-half strike proved the difference as the Mali international latched onto a Luis Suarez ball looped into his path and cannoned a finish in off the crossbar at Power Horse Stadium on Sunday.

On the back of their Europa League exit to Manchester United on Thursday, Xavi's side suffered a second successive defeat for the first time this season, missing the chance to go 10 points clear at the summit.

But opposite number Rubi will cherish a famous win for his side, as their upset helped to hoist them out of the relegation zone at the other end of the table.

Determined to ensure there would be no hangover from their midweek European loss, Barca looked to dominate possession from the first kick of the ball.

Yet they could not make their early chances stick and paid the price when Suarez brought down a long ball on the right flank, before lobbing a cross inside for Toure to finish via the woodwork in the 24th minute.

The visitors laboured in pursuit of an equaliser for the rest of the half, and headed into the interval looking no closer to finding the answers.

With the need to muster a response pressing, Barca again sought to pile on the pressure after the break, restricting their hosts to defensive duties and a meagre share of the ball.

But, with Robert Lewandowski placing two headers off target in the final 15 minutes, they could not summon the magic moment to save them from a stunning defeat. 

Xavi has paid no attention to critical analysis of Barcelona following their Europa League defeat to Manchester United, looking to return focus to LaLiga.

Having drawn 2-2 at Camp Nou in the first leg of their knockout round play-off tie, Barca took the lead at Old Trafford.

But a second-half rally from United saw the Blaugrana beaten 2-1, exiting European competition.

Rather than stew on that result, though, Xavi has sought to move on quickly, with Barca eight points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the league table.

The coach has steered clear of all commentary around the game at Old Trafford.

"I've read almost nothing or nothing. It doesn't change anything," Xavi said ahead of Sunday's game against Almeria.

"I think we played a great game and we have to live with the defeat. You saw a Barca with a very good image.

"We don't think about criticism any more. You have to work to turn the tables on you."

Barca had already been eliminated from the Champions League after finishing behind Bayern Munich and Inter in their group.

"The biggest disappointment of the season was to fall out of the Champions League," Xavi said. "This one hurts, but we have LaLiga and the Copa.

"For us, it is essential to finish the season well. We have to compete in LaLiga and the Copa. We have to keep winning titles.

"We can lose, but we have to keep competing. Yesterday the sun came out again."

"That's not up to us. We cannot control it. We have to win tomorrow, regardless of what happens in the derby."

He added: "We will try not to be affected. You have to think that we are in a good position in LaLiga.

"We haven't lost since the Bernabeu and tomorrow we have a difficult game. We have to change the focus now."

After playing Almeria, Barca have the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final first leg against Madrid on Thursday.

But Xavi said his side "cannot be aware" of the Clasico ahead of this match, and he is similarly uninterested in Madrid's derby this weekend against Atletico Madrid.

"It's not up to us. We cannot control it," he said. "We have to win tomorrow, regardless of what happens in the derby."

Diego Simeone was left to rue two dropped points in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Almeria, but backed his Atletico Madrid players to soon regain their goalscoring touch.

Atleti took the lead at Estadio Mediterraneo through Angel Correa's 18th-minute strike, only for El Bilal Toure to level up before half-time and earn the mid-table hosts a point.

Los Colchoneros' return of 28 points after 17 LaLiga games is their worst tally at this stage since 2011-12 (20 points) – also the last time they failed to finish in the top four.

Simeone's side failed to convert three further Opta-defined big chances, with substitute Alvaro Morata missing two of those and Correa the other.

Having scored more than once in a single game just three times in their past nine league outings, Simeone accepts that area of the game is letting his side down.

"We have to understand that the only way to find the goal is what happened in the first 25 minutes here," Simeone told reporters.

"We had chances and those who came on helped us, but their keeper had a brilliant game. Therefore, come the end of the game, we have the feeling of having lost two points.

"We have to keep working and keep looking to play the way we are doing. The goals will come. They often come in waves.

"We were not so fortunate in front of goal today, but we did get shots on goal. They will end up coming later."


Atleti, who had substitute Sergio Reguilon sent off late on for two yellow cards, are fourth in LaLiga – as close to Girona in 11th as they are Real Sociedad in third in terms of points.

Simeone's side have now had a player sent off in each of their past three LaLiga matches for the first time in just under 13 years.

It capped another frustrating day for inconsistent Atleti as they finished with an expected goals (xG) return of 1.17 compared to Almeria's 0.42.

"It is true that when goals are not scored it is difficult to win," Atletico defender Mario Hermoso told Movistar. "We've done well in our last two matches in terms of chances.

"Football can be this way, and as long as we have opportunities then goals will materialise. When that happens we'll enjoy ourselves a lot more."

Atleti, who have now won just one of their past six league games, switch focus to Copa del Rey action on Wednesday with a last-16 tie against Levante.

Atletico Madrid failed to make up any significant ground on LaLiga's top three as their struggles continued with a 1-1 draw at Almeria.

Diego Simeone's side have often struggled in this part of Andalusia and so that proved again on Sunday, despite Angel Correa's 18th-minute opener.

Atleti would have been two in front if not for Geoffrey Kondogbia, who got a touch to Marcos Llorente's goal-bound effort for the strike to be ruled out for offside.

El Bilal Toure headed in soon after and Almeria saw out a draw that leaves fourth-placed Atleti, who had Sergio Reguilon sent off late on, 13 points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Atleti took the lead after Antoine Griezmann dummied Kondogbia's pass for Correa to collect and tuck through the legs of Fernando Martinez.

Llorente's shot 14 minutes later appeared to be heading for the net without the need for any intervention, but Kondogbia turned it in from an offside position.

Kondogbia's misjudgement proved costly in the 37th minute when Toure powered a diving header past Jan Oblak after meeting Lucas Robertone's right-sided cross.

Correa and Alvaro Morata should have done better with efforts that were kept out by Martinez, with the latter also heading wide from a glorious position.

Atleti substitute Reguilon was sent off in the closing stages after receiving two yellow cards in the space of four minutes, as Atleti's disappointing run of form stretched to just one win in six league matches.

Xavi labelled Gerard Pique a "Barca legend" after the defender played his final game at Camp Nou before retirement.

Barcelona's 2-0 home win against Almeria on Saturday was Pique's last outing at the famous stadium prior to hanging up his boots, with second-half goals from Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong sealing the victory, making up for Robert Lewandowski missing an early penalty.

An emotional Pique was substituted in the 84th minute, receiving a standing ovation from the 92,605 fans in attendance and hugging each of his team-mates as he went off for the final time.

Speaking after the game, Xavi praised his former team-mate, with the Barca head coach saying: "He had a great game, we wanted to send him off in the best possible way.

"The bigger the game for him, the better he performed. I have already told him that he is a Barca legend and we are very thankful."

Xavi also mentioned the "beautiful" reception Pique received, though pointed out that some fans had recently not been as kind to the player, whistling in displeasure at him during the 3-0 win against Villarreal last month.

"Everything is beautiful today," he added. "The game, the performance, which was phenomenal. The tribute to Pique... We have to reconsider many times when we whistle at footballers. That doesn't add up.

"What adds up is this, 15 days ago there was whistling [at Pique]. He deserves this farewell. We have to realise that whistling doesn't help."

Appropriately for Pique, it was another clean sheet, meaning Barca have only conceded in one of their last 12 league games, which was the 3-1 defeat in El Clasico at Real Madrid, the only LaLiga game they have not won in that period.

Barca have conceded just four goals after 13 league games, equalling the lowest tally conceded at this stage of the competition in the top-flight (also four by Atletico Madrid in 1995-96).

Xavi was satisfied with the points that send Barca back to the top of LaLiga ahead of Madrid's trip to Rayo Vallecano on Monday, but felt they could have scored more after having 27 shots, the most they have managed in a league game this season.

"It was a complete match," he said. "I think the result could have been greater, it did not reflect the superiority of the team, but it gives us three points to continue in the fight."

Gerard Pique insisted it is "not farewell" after playing his final game for Barcelona at Camp Nou before retirement.

Pique was substituted to a standing ovation in the 84th minute of Barca's 2-0 win against Almeria on Saturday after second-half goals from Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong had set the Blaugrana on their way to an 11th win in their last 12 LaLiga games.

The 35-year-old announced the imminent end to his playing career earlier in the week, with the club agreeing to mutually terminate his contract prior to the start of the World Cup in Qatar later this month.

It is not yet clear whether Pique will play any part in Barca's final game before then, away to Osasuna on Tuesday, but it seems unlikely given his emotional departure against Almeria in which he hugged each of his team-mates.

Addressing the fans after the game with a microphone in hand, a tearful Pique said: "To want is to let go. There is so much love and passion between Barca and me.

"It was time to leave... [but] I am convinced that in the future I'll be here again. I already left and came back.

"This is not a farewell. I have been a member since I was born here, and I will die here."

The Barca players adorned special shirts before the game with "Sempr3" emblazoned on the front and Pique's name and number on the back, with the word 'sempre' meaning 'always' in Spanish, and Pique's number three replacing the 'e'.

Sergio Busquets also paid tribute to his team-mate with whom he has played at Barca since 2008 after the game, saying: "He leaves and incredible legacy. Playing for Barcelona means more to him than it does to anyone and we are going to miss him."

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