Xavi is not expecting Getafe to sit back at Camp Nou when they face his Barcelona side on Saturday.

Nothing else but three points will do for Barca if they are to keep their flagging La Liga title hopes alive, as they trail their bitter rivals Real Madrid by eight points with 13 games to go.

Xavi, who will leave his position as head coach at the end of the season after a difficult campaign, does not think a win will be easily achieved by his team against a Getafe side who occupy 10th spot.

“Getafe are not a defensive team, they are a brave team,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“They press very high up the pitch and they have picked up points at some tricky away grounds. They always compete and (coach Jose) Bordalas always gets the most out of his players, and that is worthy of praise.

“The points are very important for the battle for the league title. As long as we are mathematically involved, we will fight for it. Each week is a different story. We can’t drop points, less so at home.

“We would go to be in second place in the table (above Girona) and that will put more pressure on Girona and Real Madrid, who play later. We are not throwing in the towel, even though we know that it will be tough.”

Barcelona come into the match after a 1-1 draw away to Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday.

“We will see how we come into the game, but it is the moment for the best players,” Xavi added.

“We will make some changes but not many, because it is a vital match. It would have been better to play on Sunday or Monday but that is no excuse.”

Barcelona are without Alejandro Balde (hamstring), who is sidelined for the rest of the season, while Marcos Alonso remains unavailable due to lower back pain, which has meant Joao Cancelo being forced to play at left-back.

“He is playing very well both on the left and on the right, his contribution is fantastic,” Xavi said about Cancelo.

“The instructions I give him are because sometimes he plays too high or too low. Also because he is closer to the bench for me (to communicate with). But he is a leader too, we are very happy with him.”

Ilkay Gundogan believes Barcelona face a “harder” test against Napoli following the Italian club’s change of manager.

The Serie A champions sacked Walter Mazzarri on Monday and immediately brought in former coach Francesco Calzona until the end of the season.

His debut in the dugout comes at home to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash on Wednesday night.

Speaking to La Vanguardia, Gundogan said: “This is what the Champions League is all about, making big demands.

“I love this kind of pressure. Every game starts from zero. The fact they have just changed managers won’t make it any easier for us. If anything, it makes it even harder.

“There are other teams in the competition with more of a chance and better experience, but if we can reach the quarter finals, we are entering special territory. I am a realist, but I also know it’s difficult for everybody.”

Barcelona will see their boss Xavi leave the club at the end of the season.

The 44-year-old confirmed the news last month, with Barca falling behind rivals Real Madrid and Girona at the top of the LaLiga table.

Gundogan, who joined the club from Manchester City last summer after completing the treble, admitted he “didn’t expect” Xavi to leave.

He said: “Xavi played a huge role in me coming to Barcelona. If our conversations had gone another way, I wouldn’t be here.

“He made the difference and I’m grateful for that. I didn’t expect him to announce he was leaving at the end of the season, but I respect his decision.

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“He should get a lot of credit. He thinks about his family, the players and the club before himself. Xavi loves Barca.”

Despite their struggles in the league, Xavi steered Barcelona to top spot in Champions League Group H.

Napoli finished second to Madrid in Group C and are also having a far from happy time of things domestically.

They lie ninth in Serie A and have won just twice in their last eight league games.

Barcelona have Joao Felix and Sergi Roberto fit again after spells on the sidelines.

Robert Lewandowski scored an injury-time penalty at the second time of asking as Barcelona secured a nail-biting late win over Celta Vigo to stay in touch with the LaLiga title race.

Lewandowski had already given his side the lead with an emphatic finish on the stroke of half-time but Iago Aspas put his struggling side on course for a draw with a deflected effort soon after the restart.

Lewandowski eventually won it from the spot in the seventh minute of added time, but only after the referee ordered a retake when his first attempt was saved by an encroaching Vicente Guaita. The result leaves them two points behind Girona in second and seven shy of rivals and leaders Real Madrid, having played one game more than both.

At the Metropolitano Stadium, fourth-placed Atletico Madrid ran out 5-0 winners over Las Palmas. Marcos Llorente and Angel Correa scored two apiece and Memphis Depay rounded things out in a one-sided contest.

Osasuna beat Cadiz 2-0 and Sevilla took a goalless draw from Valencia on their visit to the Mestalla.

In Ligue 1, departing Paris St Germain striker Kylian Mbappe found himself left out of the starting XI against Nantes only to step off the bench and bury a penalty.

Having announced his summer departure from PSG, Mbappe had to wait until the 62nd minute to see action but was ready to slot home from the spot to put the finishing touch to a 2-0 win. Lucas Hernandez had earlier put the runaway league leaders ahead on the hour.

Elsewhere, Lille moved back into third on goal difference as hat-trick hero Jonathan David put away Le Havre 3-0.

In Germany, Bundesliga’s relentless leaders Bayer Leverkusen banked another three points with a 2-1 away win at Heidenheim.

Xabi Alonso’s title-chasers have now won seven of their last eight matches, with Jeremie Frimpong and Amine Adli on target this time. Tim Kleindienst set up some late tension with an 87th-minute reply but the hosts could not force a second.

Third-placed Stuttgart fought for a 2-1 win at bottom club Darmstadt despite Pascal Stenzel’s red card at the end of the first half. They now sit five points above Borussia Dortmund, with the latter held 1-1 at Wolfsburg after substitute Yannick Gerhardt responded to Niclas Fullkrug’s early effort.

RB Leipzig won 2-0 against Borussia Monchengladbach, Union Berlin scored the only goal away to Hoffenheim and strugglers Mainz recorded a 1-0 win over Augsburg.

Juventus’ hopes of chipping away at Inter’s Serie A lead were stifled as they were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw at Verona. Juve twice dragged themselves back from a goal down, Dusan Vlahovic’s penalty and Adrien Rabiot’s second-half strike squaring efforts from Michael Folorunsho and Tijjani Noslin.

A point left Massimiliano Allegri’s men nine points behind the Nerazurri, who have a game in hand.

Napoli’s disappointing season continued to underwhelm as they were held 1-1 at home by Genoa. Morten Frendrup put the away side in front and it was not until the 90th minute that substitute Cyril Ngonge grabbed an equaliser.

Mario Pasalic, Teun Koopmeiners and Mitchel Bakker all found the target as Atalanta strengthened their grip on fourth spot at the expense of Sassuolo.

Robert Lewandowski snatched a dramatic late victory for Barcelona at Celta Vigo, converting a retaken penalty deep in injury-time for a 2-1 win.

The Catalan giants were on course for a second straight draw after old foe Iago Aspas cancelled out Lewandowksi’s first goal with a deflected effort just after half-time, his 200th career strike.

But with almost 97 minutes on the clock, the tension ramped up as the veteran striker stood over a last-gasp spot-kick and missed.

Lewandowski held his head in his hands but was offered a lifeline when the referee judged that goalkeeper Vicente Guaita had stepped off his line and ordered it to be taken again.

Unfazed, the 35-year-old repeated the same stuttering run-up as before and slotted it home to secure the points for his side and his 50th goal in Barca colours.

It was a much-needed result for Xavi’s men, who have endured a difficult campaign and would have been disappointed to let another result slip through their fingers after being held 3-3 by Granada last time out.

For Celta it was a harsh blow, denying them a hard-earned share of the spoils and leaving them just three points above the relegation zone.

Barca dominated the ball in the first half, but struggled to generate clearcut chances to make the possession count. Lamine Yamal was first to try his luck but could not beat Guaita, while Joao Cancelo screwed a shot wide.

Despite Aspas’ best efforts the hosts were unable to find a foothold and kept absorbing pressure, Andreas Christensen heading wide at a corner and and Ronald Araujo failing to get an effort away.

The dam broke with the interval approaching, Jules Kounde feeding the ball upfield and Yamal playing in Lewandowksi from the wing. The Poland star’s first touch was an instinctive flick off the outside of the boot, taking the ball away from his marker in an instant, and his second was a rifled finish from the edge of the penalty area.

That should have settled Barca but instead they held their lead less than two minutes after the restart. It was Celta’s smoothest move of the match, Jorgen Strand Larsen and and Oscar Mingueza both producing back-heeled touches to play in Aspas as he ran through on goal.

His shot left Marc-Andre ter Stegan with no chance, but only after a hefty deflection off Kounde. Aspas has been a nuisance for Barcelona’s teams for over a decade and took his tally against them to 11 goals in 19 games.

The 36-year-old looked to have settled the draw, with substitutes Raphina and Ilkay Gundogan unable to rally a winner for the visitors and Carl Starfelt marshalling a solid defensive response.

Added time was already well under way when Fran Beltran fouled Yamal in the box, ushering in the penalty drama that offered Lewandowski two bites at the cherry from 12 yards.

Barcelona beat Alaves 3-1 in LaLiga despite playing the last 20 minutes with a man less.

Alaves piled the pressure on in the first period but Barcelona, in their first game since manager Xavi announced he will resign in the summer, nicked the opening goal of the game through Robert Lewandowski’s ninth of the season.

The home side were looking for a fourth straight league win but their hopes seemed to be snuffed out when Ilkay Gundogan doubled Barca’s lead.

Samuel Omorodion brought the hosts back into the match a couple of minutes later before Vitor Roque came off the bench on the hour mark for a whirlwind few minutes. He slotted Barca’s third and then saw red for a second bookable offence, but Barca nevertheless held on for a fifth win in six league games.

The hosts were causing major problems for Barca through the early stages and Omorodion was waiting to tap in from six yards following Sola’s low cross, but Ronald Araujo was there to clear away from danger.

Back came Alaves in search of the opener, this time Omorodion first to meet a corner at the front post but his glancing header evaded everyone inside the area.

Against the run of play, Barcelona broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute when Lewandowski latched onto a clever through ball from Gundogan and the Poland striker dinked over Antonio Sivera to make it 1-0.

Alaves almost had an equaliser five minutes later as John Guridi nodded towards goal but Barca keeper Inaki Pena did well to push the ball away.

Another wonderful chance went begging for the home team when the ball fell perfectly for Omorodion inside the box but he lashed a volley wide of the target.

Barcelona started the second half in much more solid fashion and their efforts were rewarded with a second goal four minutes after the break when Pedri’s delicious cross found Gundogan at the back post and he volleyed across goal to double the visitors’ lead.

Alaves responded almost instantly when Sola’s cross found Omorodion who headed past Pena to cut the deficit back down to a solitary goal.

Barcelona re-established their two goal lead just after the hour mark with a well-worked team goal.

Lamine Yamal started the move as he danced past Javi Lopez and after a few quick passes, Hector Fort cut it back for Roque who tucked the ball into the bottom right corner.

Barcelona were forced to play the final 20 minutes with a man less after goalscoring substitute Roque was sent off for a second yellow card after just 13 minutes on the pitch.

The 18-year-old Brazilian was booked a few moments before and saw red after he appeared to clip Rafa Marin, which the referee deemed to be worth another yellow card as Barca players protested heavily.

Alaves searched for a route back into the game but Barcelona looked solid and held on to make it back-to-back wins.

Vitor Roque’s maiden Barcelona goal saw the LaLiga champions win their first match since boss Xavi’s announcement that he is to depart as 10-man Osasuna were beaten 1-0 at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.

Roque, the 18-year-old Brazil forward recently signed from Athletico Paranaense, opened his Barca account with a header just past the hour mark, a minute after coming off the bench.

Despite having Unai Garcia sent off four minutes later, Osasuna showed some threat as they sought an equaliser but Barca were able to see out the win.

Xavi’s men bounced back after successive losses in the Copa del Rey at Athletic Bilbao and Saturday’s 5-3 home loss to Villarreal, after which the former Spain midfielder announced he would be leaving the club this summer, with the gap between them and leaders Girona reducing to eight points.

Barcelona returned to winning ways as substitute Vitor Roque secured a 1-0 home victory over 10-man Osasuna in the LaLiga champions’ first match since Xavi announced he is to stand down as boss.

Roque, the 18-year-old Brazil forward recently signed from Athletico Paranaense, opened his Barca account with a header just past the hour mark, a minute after coming off the bench.

Despite having Unai Garcia sent off four minutes later, Osasuna showed some threat as they sought an equaliser but Barca were able to see out the win.

Xavi’s men bounced back following successive defeats in the Copa del Rey at Athletic Bilbao and Saturday’s 5-3 home loss to Villarreal, after which the former Spain midfielder announced he would be leaving the club this summer.

The Blaugrana cut the gap between them and leaders Girona to eight points and, at least temporarily, moved up a place to third in the table ahead of Atletico Madrid.

Xavi made four changes from the Villarreal game, bringing in Ferran Torres, Pedri, Joao Cancelo and 17-year-old defender Pau Cubarsi.

One of the adjustments was enforced with Joao Felix dropping out after joining Barca’s lengthy list of unavailable players due to an ankle issue sustained in training.

And they were hit with another injury setback only a few minutes into the game as Torres suffered a thigh problem and had to be substituted, with Fermin Lopez coming on.

Robert Lewandowski nodded wide of the Osasuna goal soon after as he met a free-kick from Ilkay Gundogan, whose corner was then headed just over by Jules Kounde in the 35th minute.

The closing stages of the first half saw Lopez shoot too high and Kounde go close with another header.

There was further frustration for the hosts after the break with Lamine Yamal hitting a shot straight at goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez and a Gundogan header going wide before Roque, within seconds of replacing Lopez, connected with Cancelo’s cross to break the deadlock from close range in the 63rd minute.

Osasuna were then reduced to 10 men with Roque involved again, Garcia collecting a second booking having fouled the substitute.

That brought an admirable response from the visitors, with Raul Garcia’s shot hitting the post and Jon Moncayola bringing a good save out of Inaki Pena.

After Lewandowski saw an effort ruled out for offside, Pablo Ibanez then headed wide at the other end as Osasuna’s late push proved in vain.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti recognises the reasons for Xavi’s impending departure from Barcelona but refused to identify any comparisons in their roles.

Xavi hinted internal factors were among the reasons as he announced – following a 5-3 defeat at the weekend by Villarreal – that he will leave his position as Barcelona boss at the end of the season.

The 44-year-old had a decorated playing career at Barcelona and led them to the 2022-23 LaLiga title in his first full season at the helm but they sit well adrift of leaders Girona this season.

Asked whether he comprehends why Xavi is set to step down, Ancelotti told a press conference: “I understand it. I don’t want to make comparisons. I respect his thoughts and his decisions.

“There is pressure on our job. We have to respect everyone with words, decisions and thoughts.”

Real visit Getafe on Thursday looking for a sixth successive league win that will take them back above surprise leaders Girona.

“It’s a key game,” Ancelotti said. “It will be very difficult and it’s going to be very demanding for us. The team is doing well and hopefully we can put in a good performance.

“Getafe are solid, they play good football and are strong in their duels. It will be a tough game and vital for the league and the season.

“We have to get the first goal in every match. We’ve played games where we’ve taken the lead and in others we’ve had to come from behind. If we come back it’s because we’ve got the quality in the squad.”

Real trailed 2-0 against Almeria and 1-0 at Las Palmas in their two most recent contests but hit back on each occasion to win by the odd goal.

Luka Modric was an unused substitute in both matches, with the 38-year-old’s game time dwindling this season.

“Modric didn’t warm up for the game because a young player such as Arda (Guler) can warm up, not play and nothing happens,” Ancelotti said. “But with Luka I can’t do that.

“He has won five Champions League titles and he’s a legend of the club. When I’m sure he’s going to play during the game, he warms up. The player knows this.”

Ancelotti spoke fondly of Jose Bordalas, describing the “fantastic job” he is doing as Getafe head coach, who sees the resemblance in the styles between himself and the veteran Italian.

Bordalas told a press conference: “Ancelotti and I are good friends, we share many things on a professional level, we have a very similar idea.

“I have great affection for him, great respect and a lot of admiration, for what he represents for all coaches, for the world of football and for everything he is capable of achieving.

“We all know that Real Madrid is in a formidable moment. We have to be close to perfection if we want to achieve a good result.”

A day after Jurgen Klopp's shock announcement of his impending departure from Liverpool, it was revealed another European heavyweight would need a new coach for next season.

Following a humbling 3-5 defeat to LaLiga strugglers Villarreal on Saturday, Xavi confirmed he would be quitting his post at Barcelona at the end of the campaign.

Xavi's decision came just four months after he agreed to extend his contract with the Blaugrana until 2025.

While Xavi has pointed to media criticism and Barca's financial struggles as the reasons for walking away, his team - the reigning LaLiga champions - have slipped off dramatically this season.

In recent weeks, Barca have been hammered by Real Madrid in the final of the Supercopa de Espana, and lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey, while their hopes of retaining the league title are growing increasingly slim.

But where has it all gone wrong? 

2022-23: Two trophies but European failure

After a second-placed finish in 2021-22, Barca recruited heavily for Xavi's first full season in charge, despite their financial difficulties, as they looked to usher in success in the post-Lionel Messi era.

Robert Lewandowski arrived from Bayern Munich, with Barca spending €45million on a soon-to-be 34-year-old to rejuvenate their attack. Raphinha and Joules Kounde also signed in big-money moves, with Andreas Christensen, Hector Bellerin, Marcos Alonso and Franck Kessie joining on free transfers.

Ultimately, their business paid off. Barca won LaLiga at a canter, finishing 10 points clear of Madrid, while also defeating Los Blancos in the Supercopa de Espana final.

Xavi's success was built on a rock-solid defence: Barca conceded only 20 goals in LaLiga, 13 fewer than any other side, at an average of 0.5 per game. Their expected goals against (xGA) of 33.9 was also the second-lowest in the division, with only Real Sociedad (33.3) managing a lower total. However, that overperformance of 13.9 also suggested that defensive solidity may not have been sustainable.

That being said, Barca only faced 331 shots across 38 league matches – 8.7 per game on average – again, the lowest tally in LaLiga. They faced 56 shots fewer than any other side (Celta Vigo – 387), while they allowed 91 less than Real Madrid (422). The Blaugrana also faced fewer shots on target (109) than any other team in Spain's top tier.

Going the other way, only Madrid (75), scored more goals in LaLiga last season than Barca (70), though Xavi’s team did underperform their xG (77) despite having Lewandowski in fine form. The Poland international netted 23 goals from a non-penalty xG of 23.8, with an impressive shot conversion rate of 17 per cent. 

Yet in Europe, Barca could not get going. They lost three of their six group-stage matches, only managing to win against Viktoria Plzen (home and away), as their inadequacies were shown up by Bayern Munich and Inter. The Blaugrana could not even secure a Europa League place as consolidation, as they lost 4-3 to Manchester United over a two-legged play-off.

2023-24: Misfiring in attack and underperforming at the back

So, where has it gone wrong this season? Well, rather than conceding fewer goals than they should have done, Barca are now conceding more than they ought to have done based on the quality of shots they have faced and opportunities they have given up.

Barca have shipped 29 goals from their 21 LaLiga matches – only seven sides in the competition have conceded more goals so far this term. They are averaging 1.3 goals against per match.

Yet their 23.6 xGA is the third-lowest in LaLiga – essentially, Barca have conceded five goals more than would have been anticipated based on the quality of opportunities their opponents have created.

Barca have only faced 225 shots, which is a total bettered by only Madrid (217) and Valencia (212). However, their average of 10.7 shots conceded per game is already two higher than it was over the entirety of last season.

At the other end, Xavi's side have mustered the highest xG in the top flight (49), yet they have only managed 43 goals. That is still the third-highest total in LaLiga, but it is a clear and sizeable underperformance.

Even the ever-reliable Lewandowski has suffered. Now 35, he has scored six non-penalty goals from a non-penalty xG of 10.3, while his shot conversion rate has dropped to 13.3 per cent.

All in all, it could be far worse, and Barca have also been hit by injuries to the likes of Pedri and Gavi.

Bad fortune and poor finishing are part of the problem, but ultimately, it is a coach's job to fix it. Xavi looks to be running out of ideas, so calling it quits was perhaps inevitable.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has hit back at Barcelona in a row between the rival clubs over refereeing standards.

Title-chasing Real controversially beat bottom side Almeria 3-2 in LaLiga last weekend after a number of contentious VAR calls went in their favour.

Commenting on what occurred, Barca boss Xavi claimed his side could not expect such luck with refereeing decisions.

“I already said in Getafe that it was going to be very difficult to win this league,” said Xavi, whose side are seven points behind second-placed Real. “There are things that we do not control, everyone has seen it.”

Barca president Joan Laporta went even further in his criticisms, suggesting the whole competition had been “corrupted” by the Almeria controversies.

Ancelotti responded on Friday with a thinly veiled reference to the ongoing investigation into Barcelona and alleged historic payments to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee.

“I don’t like to get into this kind of controversy,” told reporters Ancelotti at a press conference carried by the club’s website to preview Saturday’s game at Las Palmas.

“There’s been a lot of talk this week and I think the same as I said before. We don’t have to divert the issue, everyone knows what has happened in Spanish football over the last 20 years.

“That’s the problem of Spanish football, not the league being adulterated, because it isn’t. Spanish football has had a problem and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the Guardia Civil are carrying out investigations and we have to give them time and patience.”

Ancelotti expects his team to rally after being questioned this week in the aftermath of the dramatic Almeria game, in which Real fought back from 2-0 down to win in the last minute.

He said: “We will try to perform at our best in a game that could be difficult because Las Palmas play very good football and defend really well. It’s going to be a demanding game.

“We’re motivated to get back to playing at our best and be more solid at the back. This week has been good for us, we’ve rested. The team is in good shape.”

Ancelotti will have to make one notable change to his line-up, with England midfielder Jude Bellingham suspended after clocking up his fifth LaLiga booking last week.

Ancelotti said: “We’ve been able to make up for the absence of important players many times and we’ll do the same again.”

Barcelona boss Xavi has urged his side to remain “focused” ahead of their Copa del Rey quarter-final clash against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

The sides have history in the competition after Barca beat Athletic 4-0 in the 2021 final, but they were knocked out by Athletic the following year in the last 16.

Barca reached this stage of the competition after overcoming a scare from Unionistas in the last 16, where they came from behind to beat the third-tier team 3-1.

They now face a tough task against Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic side, who beat Alaves 2-0 to secure their spot in the last eight.

https://twitter.com/Athletic_en/status/1749453223318945996v

Athletic are in great form this season, sitting just three points behind Barcelona in the LaLiga table, and have won six of their last seven games in all competitions, with the only blip being a 1-0 loss to Valencia on Saturday.

“(The game is) very important and we have to go into the game completely focused,” Xavi told a pre-match press conference.

“Athletic are an aggressive side and they will pressure us a lot.

“They have a great coach and international players who are in excellent form such as Nico Williams, (Oihan) Sancet and (Inigo Ruiz) De Galarreta.

“Also, they have a stadium and fans that make a lot of noise and gets behind them. It will be a tough game and we will have to compete.”

Barcelona have been handed a boost, with Joao Cancelo returning to the squad following his recovery from a knee injury, while Andreas Christensen is also back after missing the Real Betis victory on Sunday with a foot problem.

Xavi also praised the contribution of youth players from La Masia in recent games and Sunday’s clash against Betis saw spots in the starting line-up handed to then-16-year-old duo Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi.

He added: “We have a lot of confidence in them and they are showing great character. It’s a production line of players who can establish themselves in the first team.”

Barcelona manager Xavi maintains his side are “closer to success than defeat” as they look to avoid an upset in their Copa del Rey last-16 tie at third-tier Unionistas.

A 4-1 defeat by rivals Real Madrid in the final of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday further increased the pressure on Xavi and his squad.

Bara president Joan Laporta and other members of the board visited the training ground on Wednesday in an attempt to lift spirits in the camp.

Unionistas, the only non-professional team left in the tournament, secured a place in the last 16 with a penalty shootout win over Villarreal, the initial tie having been suspended following a floodlight failure and finished the following day.

The trip to Salamanca is set to further test Barca’s ambitions, but Xavi insists there is plenty left for the team to play for this season, both domestically and in Europe.

“I am here because I have achieved certain targets. When I joined they told me the goal was to finish fourth and we finished second,” Xavi said at a press conference.

“Last season the goal was to win the league – and we did that and also won the Super Cup, surpassing expectations.

“The goal this year was to win trophies and we are halfway through the season and the three most important ones are all still to play for. We are closer to success than defeat.”

Barcelona will be without defender Ronald Araujo following his dismissal against Real, while teenage forward Lamine Yamal is suspended following a red card in the Youth Copa del Rey last year against Malaga.

After seeing his side taken apart at the back by Real, with Vinicius Junior scoring a first-half hat-trick, Xavi knows his side have to tighten up.

“We have to improve in defence. We can’t let in so many goals or make things easy for the opposition,” he said.

Xavi is expecting a hot reception at the Estadio Municipal Reina Sofia as they look to secure a spot in the quarter-finals.

“They are good in the air, play direct football and have very clear ideas,” he said. “It won’t be an easy place to go – for them it is the biggest game of their lives.”

Unionistas play in the Primera Federacion alongside Barcelona’s reserve team, running out 2-0 winners against Rafael Marquez’s side at the Estadi Johan Cruyff earlier in January.

Manager Dani Ponz knows his men will be underdogs on Thursday night but is relishing the contest against one of Spain’s giants.

“We cannot be intimidated. It is impossible to stop a team like Barcelona, but we cannot fall into disbelief,” Ponz said at a press conference.

“We are going to continue playing the same way – always looking forward.”

Second-half goals from Robert Lewandowski and Lamine Yamal for Barcelona set up an El Clasico against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

The Polish striker netted just before the hour and then Yamal grabbed in time added on to ensure Barca deservedly beat Osasuna 2-0 in the semi-final.

They will now meet their fierce rivals, who beat Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, in Sunday’s final in Riyadh, bidding to win a 15th Super Cup.

Barca were on top from the start and could have had the game in the bag in the first 20 minutes, but they came up against a human wall in the shape of Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.

Herrera kept out Andreas Christensen’s volley from a corner, got down well to stop a Lewandowski effort and then tipped over Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick.

The one time he was beaten, Ferran Torres was just inches off target after Barca had won the ball back in a dangerous position.

The first-half chances kept coming as Sergi Roberto missed his kick from a golden position before Lewandowski put another header over.

Barca goalkeeper Inaki Pena had to make a save of his own to keep out Ante Budimir’s close-range effort and then Raphina limped off injured in the lead up to half-time.

Xavi’s men were back on the front foot in the second half and got their reward in the 59th minute.

Christensen regained possession before Gundogan picked out Lewandowski, who found the bottom corner for his 11th goal of the season.

Joao Felix could have made the game safe soon after but was the latest player to be denied by Herrera, who kept out the Portugal international’s curling effort.

Instead, Barcelona’s lead remained vulnerable and Pena had to pull off another good save to deny Budimir in the 77th minute, while Raul García volleyed over the bar.

They finally killed the game in the third minute of time added on as Yamal struck through Herrera after Felix’s mazy run.

Barcelona boss Xavi hopes retaining the Spanish Super Cup can help his side get their season back on track.

LaLiga champions Barca face 2022-23 Copa del Rey runners-up Osasuna in the semi-final of the competition on Thursday evening in Riyadh.

The Catalan giants travelled to Saudi Arabia sitting third in the league, seven points adrift of both leaders Real Madrid and second-placed Girona.

Xavi, who guided Barca to a 3-1 win over fierce rivals Real in the final of last year’s Supercopa de Espana, told a press conference: “We want to find our game again and keep it going.

“We need to play a complete game against a solid side, who have a great coach (Jagoba Arrasate) and who can generate all kinds of different scenarios.

“The click we need to win might come from winning the Super Cup, it certainly helped us last season.

“Hopefully we win this title and it helps us get back on track.”

Barcelona’s two league defeats this term have come against title rivals Real and Girona.

They dropped seven points in four games played between late November and mid December but recovered to register successive victories before the trip to the Middle East.

Barca defender Ronald Araujo echoed his manager’s comments.

“We hope (the Super Cup) marks a turning point,” said the Uruguay international. “It’s a title and is very important for the team and the club.

“We have a great team. We aren’t quite clinical enough in both areas. But we have top quality players to turn this situation around.”

Xavi has selected a 25-man squad for the Super Cup.

Defenders Joao Cancelo and Inigo Martinez and midfielder Pedri travelled, despite not being fully fit.

Real face city rivals Atletico Madrid on Wednesday evening in the other semi-final.

Barcelona boss Xavi maintains the club will not expect too much too soon from teenager Vitor Roque.

The 18-year-old Brazil forward has been training with his new team-mates after arriving in Catalonia to complete a 40million euro (£35m) move from Athletico Paranaense but has yet to be officially registered with LaLiga.

Xavi, though, played down suggestions of any complications over Barcelona’s financial fair play restrictions and suggested Roque could be involved for Thursday’s match at Las Palmas.

Barcelona put a buy-out clause of 500million euros (£432m) in his long-term contract, which runs until June 2031.

Xavi, though, insists Roque will be given the time needed to establish himself in the side.

“The registration process is the only thing missing. He will be in the squad list. We hope to have him available (for Thursday). I imagine it’s a question of hours,” Xavi said.

 

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“We will take things slowly with him – he is only 18 years old and we can’t shoulder too much responsibility on him.

“He is doing well, is eager and has adapted very quickly to the group and to training, but we will be cautious.”

Barcelona resume LaLiga action away in the Canary Islands following the international break sitting fourth, some seven points off leaders Real Madrid and Girona.

Defender Inigo Martinez is closing in on a return from a thigh problem, so could feature in the the Copa del Rey tie at Barbastro on Sunday.

Marcos Alonso, though, is set for a spell out following surgery to help resolve an on-going back problem.

Xavi feels his players can return refreshed for the challenges ahead in 2024.

“The team has come back very well,” Xavi told a press conference. “There’s no need for words, now it’s time to show it on the pitch. We want to find continuity in our play and results.

“I see how they train, what they are capable of, we have done it with most of them. I am convinced (we can win trophies) and I am very excited to start this year.”

Las Palmas manager Garcia Pimient admits it will be somewhat strange to come up against his boyhood club, having been sacked from his role in charge of Barcelona B in June 2021 – but will have the team fully focused for the challenge.

“It is a special match because I was there for many years. I don’t know how I will feel,” Pimient told a press conference.

“A lot of time has passed since that moment. I have not contacted (Barcelona president) (Joan) Laporta again because I want to thank him because thanks to his decision I am here.”

Pimient added: “We prepared for the match knowing that we would be without the ball for a longer period.

“It will be difficult for us, but we have to be brave and be champions – if we retreat, we will not achieve anything.”

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