Barcelona coach Xavi has confirmed Ronald Araujo "is conscious and out of danger" but will spend the night in hospital after leaving the win against Celta Vigo in an ambulance.

Araujo clashed heads with team-mate Gavi shortly after the hour mark in Tuesday's LaLiga match when contesting an aerial ball just inside their own half.

Gavi stayed down, whereas Araujo initially appeared to chase after the ball, only to then collapse to the turf.

Both sets of players urged medical staff to enter the field, and the 23-year-old received around 10 minutes of treatment before being taken to a nearby hospital.

The incident somewhat overshadowed Barca's 3-1 victory, but Xavi provided a positive update on Araujo's condition shortly after full-time.

"We were scared at first," Xavi told Movistar+. "The doctors have told us he is conscious and out of danger. But he will be spending the rest of the night in the hospital.

"Tomorrow, hopefully, he will be back at home. It's just a scare."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double, after Memphis Depay had earlier opened the scoring, gave Barca a 3-0 lead against Celta.

Celta recovered from three goals down to draw 3-3 in November's reverse fixture, though, and pulled one back through Iago Aspas at Camp Nou.

However, a red card issued to former Barca loanee Jeison Murillo ultimately ended the visitors' hopes of rescuing another unlikely point.

With his goal, Aspas has now scored 10 times in 15 league games against Barcelona – only Diego Forlan has scored as many against them this century in LaLiga.

Aspas was asked about his goal in his post-match interview, but his immediate focus was the well-being of Araujo.

"Firstly, I want to send a message of encouragement to Ronald. I don't know what happened," he said. "He left on a stretcher, but they have told us that now he is better. 

"At first when I saw the incident, he looked a bit stunned. Then I saw him from the side, with his head down and that's why we called the medics.

"In the game, we have had many more chances than Barcelona, but we weren't effective neither in the rival area nor our own."

Xavi is not ready to welcome the end of Barcelona's season despite the relief of clinching Champions League qualification on Saturday.

The Blaugrana beat Real Betis 2-1 in Seville to ensure the fifth-placed side can no longer catch them in second.

Ansu Fati's scuffed shot broke the deadlock, before ex-Barca defender Marc Bartra responded with a similarly untidy header.

It fell to Jordi Alba to win the match and secure Barca's top-four place with a sublime 94th-minute volley.

Coach Xavi saluted his side for the effort they put in to recover from a poor start to the season, having won every match they have played against top-10 opposition in 2022.

But he still has his sights set on tying up second place.

"We've taken a weight off our shoulders," Xavi said. "It could have been a more complicated and difficult season.

"The team has competed a lot. We have not played excellently in many games; in others, yes, but we have a winning soul and competitive character.

"We beat the top 10 in this second round of the season. It's evidence that we have to play better. It has to be analysed, but we have made a titanic effort from November to here.

"We will be in the Champions League, the competition we deserve. Now we want to be second."

However, Xavi added this achievement was the "minimum required" at Camp Nou, saying: "I want to compete for titles. We can't miss another year not being competitive."

The former Barca midfielder will hope Fati can have a big role to play in an improved 2022-23 campaign, having been limited to 12 appearances – in which he has still scored six goals – due to injuries this term.

Xavi hailed Fati as his "difference-maker", scoring 75 seconds after his introduction from the bench, and said: "It's a very good feeling to have him back."

Dani Alves wants to stay at Barcelona past the end of this season but acknowledges the club will decide his future.

Having left the Blaugrana to join Juventus in June 2016, Alves announced his return to Camp Nou in November 2021, though he had to wait until January to be eligible to feature for the Catalan giants.

The 39-year-old has contributed one goal and three assists in 13 appearances since then, 12 of them starts, as Barca look to ensure a top-four finish in LaLiga after improving since Xavi's arrival as head coach in November.

After making a positive impact since returning, Alves is hoping to extend his long association with Los Cules past the expiration of his deal at the end of the campaign.

While pledging to always "give 200 per cent" for the club, however, Alves admitted his future would be decided by others.

"I live intensely all day, without thinking beyond that because I don't know what will happen. But what is certain is that I would like to continue because I feel at home here," he told Marca.

"I am at this club and team, which I had to fight to return to for five years and I think I can keep contributing, although it doesn't only depend on me. 

"I'm not too worried about it, though. My mission was to come here and show what I can contribute. I'm not one of those people who thinks, because of my career and everything I've won, that I don't have to keep proving myself. 

"I will always think that I have to prove my worth. I can't do anything else but give 200 percent to the club that I love. But it's up to them to decide. 

"I know where I am in my life and my career, but I also know what's inside me. I think any club that doesn't have me is losing out. 

"If Barcelona want me to renew my contract, I'm delighted. If they don't want me to then I'll say 'thank you very much' and will continue to defend this club to the death wherever I am."

 

Having gone unbeaten in 13 away league games (eight wins, five draws), Barcelona can strengthen their grip on second place in LaLiga when they travel to Copa del Rey winners Real Betis on Saturday.

With things looking up again at Barcelona after the ill-fated tenure of Xavi's predecessor Ronald Koeman, Alves says the club's transfer business will decide whether the Blaugrana can compete for major honours next season.

"It will depend on the transfer market business. That will determine whether the club can aspire to great things or not. You have to get it right and add quality to what you already have," he added.

"Xavi's arrival brought knowledge of the club, of fighting for the badge and history of this club. It is also important to make mistakes because it gives you more experience. If you don't make mistakes, you don't see if what you're doing is right or not. 

"Mistakes have been made and we've seen which way isn't the way to go, so now the club is restructuring again. But we don't know how long it will take. 

"If the new signings take in the idea that Xavi proposes then it won't be long before the club aspires to great things again. If not, it will take a bit longer. But people need to understand where they are and what needs to be done to get good results."

Barcelona coach Xavi is urging his players to take full advantage of a "golden opportunity" to seal Champions League qualification against a direct rival in Real Betis.

The Blaugrana go to Seville on Saturday sitting second in LaLiga, eight points clear of fifth-placed Betis – who won 1-0 at Camp Nou in December – as the battle for the top four nears its conclusion.

A win for Barca over the Copa del Rey winners would take them to 69 points and ensure they do not finish any lower than fourth, with Betis only able to reach 67 and sixth-placed Real Sociedad 68.

While the 15-point gap to champions Real Madrid highlights how confronting 2021-22 has been for Barca, Xavi has restored a degree of positivity since replacing Ronald Koeman in November.

Barca were ninth in LaLiga after 13 matches ahead of Xavi's first game in charge, 10 points behind second-placed Sevilla; they now appear favourites to finish ahead of Julen Lopetegui's side and dethroned champions Atletico Madrid as runners-up.

And Xavi wants his team to clinch Champions League qualification at the first time of asking.

"Hopefully, it's a golden opportunity to qualify for the Champions League," he said on Friday. "They're a direct rival, with great players and a great coach. It will be difficult.

"Football gives us the chance to take sporting revenge. We want to fulfil our goals before the end of the season.

"We are fighting for the minimum, but that's the way it is. There are two goals, but the most important is to be in the Champions League next season.

"That's the objective. If we can get second, which would give us the option of entering the Supercopa, then even better.

"We cannot think beyond this, [but] I hope that this summer there will be signings despite the economic situation. We cannot take the European qualification for granted.

"I expect an opponent [Betis] with a lot of confidence. They have won the Copa, they deserved it. I congratulate Betis, [Manuel] Pellegrini and the players, who are having an excellent, historic season. I congratulate them."

Ever since Xavi's return to the club, their "philosophy" and "DNA" have drawn a lot of focus, with many supporters feeling Barca's ethos was diluted under Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien and Koeman.

Ronald Araujo commented that restoring "the Barca DNA" with Xavi was a chief goal of his after signing a new contract in April, and while the coach acknowledges he cannot change things in an instant, he is confident they are making progress with a top-four finish almost secure.

"It's not my message, it's the message of Barca's history," Xavi continued. "I don't have a magic wand, what I'm clear about is that with this model [Barca] won five Champions Leagues and world recognition.

"You leave Spain and they remember [Pep] Guardiola's Barca, [Lionel] Messi's Barca, and they remember how we won, not so much what we won.

"We have to wait and be patient. If we review history, there is no doubt."

Dani Alves insists "things are going to change" at Barcelona under Xavi, highlighting the way the Blaugrana had reinvented themselves in the past.

Barcelona sit a distant second in LaLiga, but despite watching rivals Real Madrid win their 35th title, can all but secure Champions League qualification by beating fifth-placed Real Betis on Saturday.

Alves announced his return to Camp Nou last November after originally departing in 2016, but had to wait until January to be eligible to play. Since then, the 38-year-old has made 10 league appearances, chipping in with one goal and two assists as Xavi looks to revive Barca's fortunes after the ill-fated tenure of predecessor Ronald Koeman.

As Barca close in on Champions League qualification, the Brazilian, who won 23 major trophies in his initial eight-year spell with the Blaugrana, insists the club will rise again, just as it did after Ronaldinho's 2003 arrival or Pep Guardiola's appointment as head coach in 2008.

"We must be united, be positive, things are going to change, as they changed when Ronaldinho arrived. Before he arrived, it seemed that things were not going [well]," Alves told the club's media channels on Tuesday.

"Afterwards, it seemed that it would not be repeated, we [Guardiola's team] arrived and what happened was historic.

"Now it seems that we are living through this moment of transition, but it will be again. We must be positive and have that faith, that desire and that illusion of things changing and it will [happen] again. 

"This club has a lot of resilience, it has had to reinvent itself several times. You have to hold on to that power that this club has to return it to where it deserves to be. It is a club made to win, to be ahead. We have to keep winning, for people to want to be like Barca."

 

Barcelona have won five of their last seven league games after beating Real Mallorca 2-1 on Sunday, as the Catalan giants ended a run of three consecutive defeats at Camp Nou – the joint-worst sequence in their history.

A talented crop of young talent has proven crucial to reviving Barca's fortunes over the second half of the season, with the likes of Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, Ronald Araujo, and Sergino Dest all featuring heavily for the Blaugrana this term.

Alves, who featured alongside Xavi and an array of other La Masia graduates in Guardiola's all-conquering team, says the former midfielder is the best coach those young players could ask for.

"They have one of the best people who can teach them," Alves added. "They have the best possible teacher, they have to pay attention to what he teaches them. 

They have the qualities to be top, but it is up to them to write their own story. We will help them to be at the top and make their story."

Memphis Depay is determined to be a key player for Barcelona for "several more years" despite speculation over his future.

The Netherlands forward was signed by Ronald Koeman on a two-year deal as a free agent last June after his Lyon contract expired.

Depay is Barca's leading scorer in his first season at Camp Nou with 12 goals in all competitions, but has only started two LaLiga games since the turn of the year, with Xavi bringing Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the club in January.

The 28-year-old has been hampered by injuries, but found the back of the net with a clinical finish in a 2-1 win over Real Mallorca on Sunday.

With Ansu Fati back from injury and the Blaugrana expected to strengthen ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, Depay's future has been called into question, but he is eager to stay put.

The former Manchester United attacker told ESPN: "I came here wanting to play for the team. I want to be important for the team next year and several more years,"

He added: "It's normal that I have a lot of competition at Barca. I play for the best club in the world."

Head coach Xavi also suggested Depay has a part to play beyond this season.

"Memphis trains very well and that's why he plays. We want this type of player, with this attitude," he said after Sunday's win.

"Surely I've been unfair to him, but if he performs like this he has to play."

Barcelona head coach Xavi labelled Ansu Fati a "special player" after handing the 19-year-old his first league appearance since November in a 2-1 win over Real Mallorca.

Fati entered the fray as a 75th-minute substitute as the Blaugrana recorded a crucial win in their bid to secure Champions League qualification, as goals from Memphis Depay and Sergio Busquets moved Barca into second place in LaLiga, nine points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis.

Fati has recorded 14 goals and one assist in 37 appearances in LaLiga since making his Barca debut in 2019, but he has suffered an injury-plagued campaign and went over five months without making a league appearance prior to his comeback.

Speaking after the youngster's return to the pitch, Xavi lauded Fati's ability and said it was a "shame" the Catalan giants had been without him for the majority of the season.

"He is very happy to be with the group," Xavi said. "Little by little, he needs competition rhythm. Training is not the same as participating in a match and he needs time. 

"Ansu is a special player. You see him in training. He has made an effort to be with us.

"I have tried him as a number nine [in this match] so that he was close to the area, and because he is not yet ready to do many one-on-ones. 

"It's a shame that we haven't had him these months because I'm sure he would have helped us. I'm very happy for him."

Although Fati's 15-minute cameo in Barcelona's fifth win in seven LaLiga games (two defeats) was welcome news, the Blaugrana lost defender Gerard Pique to injury in the first-half, and Xavi said his former team-mate had been playing through the pain barrier to help Barca's push for a top-four finish.

"Today he told me that he was very well, but in the 10th minute he felt discomfort again. He is making a super effort for the team, he is super involved but the pain is there," Xavi added.

"In the 25th minute, he told me that he couldn't give any more and it was difficult for him to run. 

"Let's see how it is this week. Pique is very important because of his ball output, his size, his set piece [threat] and the leadership he gives to the group."

Barcelona face top-four rivals Real Betis in their next league outing on Saturday, and could mathematically confirm Champions League qualification with a win in that contest if Betis fail to win at Getafe on Monday.

Xavi said Barcelona's 2-1 win over Real Mallorca gives them "peace of mind" in their hunt for Champions League qualification, and hailed Memphis Depay's attitude after he opened the scoring with a stunning volley.

Having lost three consecutive matches at Camp Nou for just the second time in their illustrious history, the Blaugrana bounced back through excellent goals from Depay and Sergio Busquets, holding on for the win after Antonio Raillo pulled a goal back late on.

The Catalan giants have now won five of their last seven games in LaLiga to open up a nine-point lead over fifth-placed Real Betis in the race for Champions League football, moving up to second in the table.

Although Xavi insisted his team should have won the match more comfortably, he was pleased after picking up a crucial win in their quest to wrap up a top-four finish.

"It was a 3-0 match and we have to finish more satisfied, we have committed an unnecessary foul and they have scored the goal. It is a game to win [more] comfortably," he said after the victory.

"[But] the three points give us peace of mind. Now we have a league of five teams to enter the Champions League, which we have to win."

Depay's fantastic volleyed opener represented his 11th goal of the season in LaLiga – more than any other Barcelona player, and while Xavi was not willing to discuss whether the attacker had a future at Camp Nou, he insisted the 28-year-old deserved to play after showing great application in training.

"There is no talk of the future. Memphis has played because he trains very well, and maybe because another player had lowered his arms," he added. "We had worked on the play for the first goal.

"We want players with his attitude. I'm happy for him because it's possible that we were unfair at times with him. But if he trains like this, he has to participate."

Depay's Netherlands team-mate Frenkie de Jong, meanwhile, played the full 90 minutes after reacting angrily to being substituted in Barca's defeat to Rayo Vallecano last time out.

But the 24-year-old, who has been linked with a move away from Catalonia in recent weeks, said he has had positive discussions with Xavi since that incident and hopes Barcelona can compete with newly-crowned champions Real Madrid for the league title next term.

"The conversation with Xavi went well," De Jong said. "I have confidence in myself and the coach has told me that he also has confidence in me. I don't think too much is demanded of me, the pressure is always good and it's never too much.

"We were better and we deserved the victory. We played quite well, although we can always improve a lot. But it was important to win after defeats and we are happy with that.

"We are second, the first objective is to qualify for the Champions League, and then to be second to play in the [Spanish] Super Cup.

"It is frustrating, not fighting for the league, but we have not been good this year and that is why we have not been able to compete with them [Madrid]. We hope to do so next year."

Barcelona took another big step towards Champions League qualification as Memphis Depay and Sergio Busquets scored superb goals in a 2-1 LaLiga win over Real Mallorca.

Looking to avoid a fourth consecutive home defeat, the Blaugrana calmed a nervous Camp Nou crowd through Depay's excellent first-half volley on Sunday.

Busquets then fired a low effort beyond Sergio Rico and the Catalan giants held on for the win despite Antonio Raillo's 79th minute goal.

After being forced to watch rivals Real Madrid win the title on Saturday, Xavi's side at least look likely to join them in next season's Champions League after moving back into second place.

Rico was forced into an excellent save after five minutes, diving to his right to turn away Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goal-bound header, before Fer Nino squandered a fantastic opportunity for the visitors when firing over at the back post from close range.

Ronald Araujo saw a powerful 22nd-minute header ruled out for offside, but the Blaugrana did take the lead three minutes later when Depay expertly volleyed into the bottom-left corner after controlling Jordi Alba's ball over the top.

The hosts lost Gerard Pique to injury before the break, but doubled their advantage after 54 minutes when Busquets drilled a left-footed effort into the bottom-right corner after striding onto a loose ball on the edge of the area.

Depay went close to another brilliant goal when he shot narrowly wide from range after dancing through the visiting midfield, before Barca had another goal ruled out by VAR after Ferran Torres's shot deflected in off Aubameyang in an offside position.

Xavi handed Ansu Fati his first appearance since November from the bench, as the hosts clung on for a vital win despite Raillo prodding home from Salva Sevilla's cross. 

What does it mean? Blaugrana end Camp Nou misery 

Barcelona had seen much of the positivity surrounding the club dissipate after suffering three consecutive home defeats for just the second time in their history, but bounced back to secure three precious points.

In doing so, Xavi's side stretched their lead over fifth-placed Real Betis - who have a game in hand - to nine points with four matches to play, taking a huge step towards sealing a Champions League spot.

Alba assumes creative role again

Having teed up Depay's goal, Alba has recorded nine assists in La Liga this season, the best such record managed by a defender in the competition since Real Madrid's Marcelo registered 10 in 2016-17.

Alba's return also represents the best managed by a Barca defender since Dani Alves teed up 11 goals in the 2011-12 campaign.

Depay shows his worth

Although Barcelona's push for Champions League football has seen January arrivals Aubameyang and Torres star in the attacking positions, Depay provided a reminder of his quality by striking a terrific opener.

The Dutchman has now scored 11 goals in LaLiga this season, more than any other Blaugrana player.

What's next? 

Barcelona's next outing sees them travel to Betis for a huge contest on Saturday, while Mallorca host fellow strugglers Granada on the same day.

Ansu Fati will be available for selection for Barcelona when they play Real Mallorca at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Barca sit third in LaLiga, a point behind second-placed Sevilla – who have played a game more – and 18 adrift of newly crowned champions Real Madrid.

Fati has not featured for the Blaugrana since sustaining a hamstring injury in January, but head coach Xavi revealed on Saturday that the 19-year-old could return this weekend.

"We will give the squad list and Ansu will be there," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference.

"He feels very comfortable and is making efforts to return. He will play at least a few minutes. He is happy, he is smiling, a special player.

"We take great care of him, we know he is a special player. For now the feelings are very good, peaks of speed, physically very good."

The club then confirmed Fati's presence in the squad on Sunday via their Twitter page.

Barca go into the match having lost three successive home games in all competitions for just the second time in history, last doing so under Louis van Gaal between the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.

Defeat last time out against Rayo Vallecano, who became the first promoted team to complete a LaLiga double over Barca since Salamanca in 1997-98, left Xavi's side in third, and they will look to bounce back when they welcome Mallorca to Camp Nou.

Barcelona coach Xavi expressed his gratitude for the support from former boss Ronald Koeman as he implored the Blaugrana to respond against Real Mallorca.

Xavi's side sit third in LaLiga, a point behind second-placed Sevilla – who have played a game more – and 15 behind runaway leaders Real Madrid.

However, Barca have fallen to three straight home defeats in all competitions for just the second time in their history, last doing so under Louis van Gaal between the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.

That torrid run culminated in their elimination from the Europa League and placed slight doubt over Champions League qualification, though they are six points ahead of fifth-placed Real Betis.

Koeman suggested on Thursday that Xavi deserves more support than he received when at Barca, with the Spaniard lifting the Blaugrana from ninth to third following the Dutchman's dismissal last October.

While Xavi welcomed the support of a fellow coach and revealed his admiration for Koeman, the 42-year-old urged Barca to improve against Mallorca on Sunday.

"I'm not going to change the feelings that Ronald has. I wasn't there and I'm not going to give my opinion," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday.

"I have tremendous respect and admiration for him. Everyone has to support Barca. I have the utmost respect for Ronald for the work and effort he made. Thank him, nothing more.

"We are here and I do feel the support of the club and of Barcelona in general. It seemed that we had hit the key, but suddenly there were three defeats in a row.

"Now we have to see to the coach, the players, show our faces."

Barca have never lost four home games in a row in their history, and Xavi reiterated his calls for his side to respond against Mallorca, who have lost their last eight league meetings with the Blaugrana.

"It is time to take a step forward," he added. "You have to make more of a team than ever and bring out your personality. It's not because of a bad attitude.

"It's because of situations that have weighed us down. We have to improve. It's time to push it forward and bring out the personality. I have a winning team and that's the reality.

"You have to set challenges. Those who have the most desire will enter the Champions League. This is a club made to win titles. The second is the minimum required.

"On Monday we were angry, on Tuesday less and on Wednesday we were already working.

"It is a reality and you have to prepare yourself for that. You have to have faith to achieve the minimum objective."

Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid will be crowned champions if they avoid defeat against Espanyol the day before Barca are in action.

"If they are champions, we will congratulate them," he said of Madrid.

"They have been better because this is a long competition and usually the one who deserves it wins. We will congratulate them and next year we will compete better."

Ansu Fati will feature for Barcelona against Real Mallorca for the first time in three months after sustaining a hamstring injury, Blaugrana coach Xavi confirmed.

Barca have lost their last three home games in all competitions for just the second time in history, last doing so under Louis van Gaal between the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.

Defeat against Rayo Vallecano, who became the first promoted team to complete a LaLiga double over Barca since Salamanca in 1997-98, left Xavi's side in third – 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

While Madrid need just a point against Espanyol on Saturday to secure the title, Barca will be boosted by the return of Fati against Mallorca on Sunday.

The 19-year-old has suffered an injury-hit campaign, last featuring in January – and not at all in LaLiga since November – managing just five league appearances this season for his 213 minutes of action.

"We will give the squad list and Ansu will be there," Xavi told reporters at a pre-match news conference. 

"He feels very comfortable and is making efforts to return. He will play at least a few minutes. He is happy, he is smiling, a special player.

"We take great care of him, we know he is a special player. For now the feelings are very good, peaks of speed, physically very good."

Fati will return to a Barca side that has scored with only one of the last 46 shots they have attempted in LaLiga, and with one of their last 57 at Camp Nou in the competition.

However, Xavi insists his side need to collectively respond instead of relying on the teenager to make things happen when he features.

"The focus has to be on the team. I understand football as a collective game. If it's only one player, when he fails the team doesn't shoot," he added.

"Everyone has to shoot. Ansu is a different player, he has to be very important from now on.

"But there is no specific focus on him or anyone, I have never understood it that way."

Barca will be without midfielder Pedri as the talented youngster continues to recover from a hamstring injury sustained against Eintracht Frankfurt earlier in April.

The Blaugrana have won eight of 10 LaLiga games that Pedri has started, in comparison to just 10 victories in 23 league games without the Spain international in the starting line-up this season.

Xavi provided a positive update on Pedri as he suggested he may be without centre-back Gerard Pique against Mallorca.

"Pedri is training separately and has a good feeling," he added. "Pique has a tendon problem. We'll see tomorrow, today he was more sore.

"Nico [Gonzalez] broke his finger in a collision with Ansu. A shame because we don't have plenty of midfielders, but that's football."

One midfielder that could leave his mark, though, is the out of favour Frenkie de Jong, who was seemingly unhappy after his substitution in Barca's last game.

"We had a very good face-to-face talk," Xavi said of De Jong. 

"It's obvious that this change frustrated him, but I have to look out for the team. He's had excellent games, but he has to be constant.

"He's capable and is here to make a difference. He's a very important player for the present and for the future".

Barcelona will return to their revered footballing blueprint under Xavi and the Blaugrana faithful should be excited over a "team to dream about", according to Ronald Araujo.

The Uruguayan was speaking at Camp Nou on Friday after committing his future to the club until the end of the 2025-26 campaign, with the 23-year-old set to play a big part in Barca's future.

Araujo has emerged as a key player this season, particularly since the arrival of Xavi following the dismissal of Ronald Koeman in October.

Xavi has overseen an upturn in fortunes with Barca climbing from ninth at the time of Koeman's sacking up to second in LaLiga, despite falling to three consecutive home defeats across all competitions in April.

Defender Araujo was quick to back Blaugrana boss Xavi as he suggested the Spaniard will restore Barca's principles to help them compete with LaLiga champions-elect Real Madrid, who need just a point to reclaim the title.

"I always work hard," he said. "I watch videos and talk a lot with Xavi about learning the Barca style. I believe in the project and we will get back up and start winning trophies again.

"I want Barca fans to feel excited about the team, because we are going back to the Barca DNA and we have a solid base of young and veteran players. We have a team to dream about."

 

Araujo's 39 appearances this term can only be bettered by Jordi Alba (40), Gavi (42), Frenkie de Jong (43) and Sergio Busquets (47) among Barca's outfield players.

The Uruguay international has made 78 appearances in total since joining from Uruguayan side Boston River in August 2018, contributing to 13 clean sheets across those games.

Araujo is keen to continue his progression with the Catalan giants as he looks to learn alongside the evergreen Gerard Pique and experienced Alba.

"I feel such immense joy," he said of his new contract.

"I have matured a lot. I couldn't pick any single moment from my time here, all I wanted was to renew my contract and be able to stay at Barca for a long, long time."

Barca president Joan Laporta also heaped praise on Araujo as he spoke alongside him on Friday.

"We want to thank Araujo for his character and commitment," Laporta said. "He has opened his heart.

"He is a footballer of the immediate present, but this also helps us to consolidate our short- and long-term plans. He is a very talented player who will help us to build a winning Barca."

Ronald Koeman has called on former club Barcelona to show Xavi more support than he received in the Camp Nou dugout and defended his own record with the Blaugrana.

Koeman spent just over a year in the Camp Nou dugout before being sacked in October 2021, winning the Copa del Ray last season but overseeing a third-place finish in LaLiga and the departure of legendary attacker Lionel Messi.

Barca sat ninth in the top flight when the Dutchman departed, but are now favourites to secure Champions League qualification after Xavi oversaw an upturn in results. 

However, the Catalan giants recently lost three successive home games for just the second time in their illustrious history, and Koeman says club president Joan Laporta must show Xavi more support than he was granted during his own spell in charge.

"The situation of Barca, of the team and of the club, is the same as when I was [there]," he said at a golf event in Barcelona. "It means that changing the coach does not always mean being able to improve. The situation of the club hurts me.

"From January I will be the coach of the Netherlands, but I ask for maximum support for Xavi. He is a good coach, a legend at home and it is not his fault that Barca is in this situation.

"The only thing I ask is support for Xavi, I haven't had the full support of a president, I hope he [Laporta] has learned and does support Xavi. I didn't have support from the club and I hope Xavi does.

"Internally, you can say you have doubts, but on the outside there has to be support." 

Barca enjoyed an upturn in results after the January arrivals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres but rivals Real Madrid are now 15 points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Los Blancos will secure their 35th title by earning a point at home to Espanyol on Saturday after winning eight of their last nine league games (one loss), and Koeman says that gap is evidence that his time in charge was not a complete failure, highlighting financial difficulties and presidential elections as having a severe impact throughout his tenure.

 

"When I left, Madrid was eight points ahead and now the difference is almost double," he added. "I don't feel like a failed coach, far from it. 

"In January we were twelve points behind Atletico Madrid, we had the opportunity to be first against Granada and we failed. We kept the Copa and if you win a title it's not a failure.

"I spent many months without a president, I had to make statements about the club's situation, there was financial fair play [issues]. Then Messi and [Antoine] Griezmann left on the last day of the market. 

"I was heavily criticised for signing Luuk Jong, who is very good when you need a finisher. Luckily his goals have given five or six points in the last few minutes. I think that one person or a coach cannot be blamed for the loss of [the club's] DNA."

Koeman will reclaim his former position as Netherlands head coach after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar when he takes over from Louis van Gaal and will be reunited with Blaugrana midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

De Jong has come in for some criticism for his recent displays and has been linked with a move to Manchester United, but Koeman believes the 24-year-old will prove any doubters wrong.

"I don't think Barca wants to sell Frenkie, Xavi doesn't want to either," he added. "You don't have to doubt Frenkie de Jong, I don't doubt him and he's a starter in the national team. We put a player on top of everything and two weeks later we criticise him."

Xavi has told Barcelona they have "five finals" to play as they attempt to banish their April blues and make sure of a Champions League place.

A third consecutive home defeat has left second-placed Barcelona 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who should wrap up the LaLiga title on Saturday, needing just to avoid defeat against Espanyol to make sure.

While Barcelona's great rivals get set to celebrate, there is significant work to do for coach Xavi after his Blaugrana team were beaten 1-0 at home by Rayo Vallecano, who completed a league double over the Catalan giants.

Andoni Iraola became the first manager to beat Barcelona home and away in his first season in LaLiga since Quique Hernandez did so at Hercules in the 1996-97 season.

Alvaro Garcia scored with the only shot on target that Vallecano managed all night, and with a little luck Barcelona would have enjoyed a better outcome, but they are all out of luck just now.

A Europa League loss to Eintracht Frankfurt and LaLiga defeats to Cadiz and now Vallecano have been unexpected setbacks for a team who were on an immense high five weeks ago when they spanked Real Madrid 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Assessing the Vallecano setback and its impact, Xavi said: "I don't think it's a lack of personality on the part of the team. There are emergencies at the club, both football-wise and financially. It's a difficult situation and we have to face it.

"Now it's time to rest, disconnect and in the middle of the week we will get back on and prepare for the Mallorca game. We have five finals remaining, we've complicated it for ourselves."

 

Barcelona should still achieve a top-four finish, given they remain six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis, but Xavi wants more than to see his side stumble over the line.

Their objective is to finish the season strongly and build momentum for the next campaign, and performances such as Sunday's disrupt the significant progress that has been made since Xavi's appointment in November.

Speaking to Movistar LaLiga, Xavi said: "In the first half we were not good, but in the second we improved, and the feeling is that we deserved much more. We had shots from all sides, from outside [the penalty area], from inside. But it didn't want to go in.

"In the first half it wasn't us, we didn't have the personality that we had to have in the game. Everything has been complicated for us today. It was a slow game, with interruptions."

He said Barcelona needed to show greater desire, and pointed to how Sunday's visitors capitalised on their big moment in front of goal.

The three shots that Rayo Vallecano attempted ranked as their lowest total in a LaLiga game this season.

"Rayo had one and a half chances," Xavi said. "We return to the issue of effectiveness.

"We are in a difficult situation. We are still in the Champions League places but we have complicated it for ourselves because if we had beaten Cadiz and Rayo it would have almost given us qualification for the Champions League."

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