Xavi has full confidence that Gerard Pique will not let off-field matters impact his performances, as he suggested the Barcelona defender will be motivated by the criticism coming his way.

Pique has had to defend himself in recent days after it emerged he had negotiated a €24million commission when the Supercopa de Espana was moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020.

The 35-year-old's sports entertainment company Kosmos was behind the deal, and leaked audio recordings led El Confidencial to report they would benefit to the tune of €4m per tournament over the six-year agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), defended himself in a news conference on Wednesday, two days after Pique told a Twitch stream: "I have nothing to hide, everything we have done is legal."

Another leaked discussion between Pique and Rubiales surrounded the centre-back potentially going to the Tokyo Olympics as part of Spain's squad.

While Xavi conceded the situation is difficult, he insists he trusts Pique's intentions around the Supercopa, while claiming his former team-mate will be motivated to perform better by the controversy.

"He is outgoing and likes to be on people's lips," Xavi told a news conference ahead of Barca's LaLiga meeting with Real Sociedad.

"I am more diplomatic. I know him. If he wasn't focused, I would warn him, but it [attention] gives him fuel. It's adrenaline for him. It's like a drug, in a good sense of the word. He's focused.

"Pique's Twitch didn't bother me, it [would] bother me if he didn't give it his all or didn't follow the rules. It's Gerard and I know him. I know how to manage him and he needs it. He's doing well to compete, he needs this stimulus. 

"It's very difficult, my opinion doesn't change anything. There are two people involved. I know Rubiales well, he's a noble guy.

"I trust his honesty. He must explain himself, and [so must] Pique. I think they looked for the good of the great majority. I want to think that. If it is ethical or not? There are opinions of all kinds."

 

Away from Pique, Xavi has his own problems to think about. Barca have lost their last two games, suffering successive home defeats across all competitions for the first time since April 2003 after reverses in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt and LaLiga against Cadiz.

The latter defeat left Barca 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who can move 18 points clear with a win over Osasuna before the Blaugrana's meeting with La Real the following day.

"There was no anger, but I told them things clearly," Xavi said when asked what he told his players following the loss to Cadiz. "You have to be better, the game had to be won.

"I feel bad, I like to win, but I have to face reality. I will not change what I believe. In the league we had a good run until Cadiz."

Barca did have a good run, going unbeaten in 15 LaLiga matches before that 1-0 loss at Camp Nou on Monday.

They are level with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid on 60 points, but sit just five ahead of sixth-placed La Real.

Barca, though, are unbeaten in their last 11 league meetings with the Basque team and have not lost any of their last 12 LaLiga away games.

Barcelona are not "throwing in the towel" in the LaLiga title race despite sitting 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, according to Blaugrana president Joan Laporta.

Xavi's Barca slipped to a 1-0 home defeat against relegation-threatened on Cadiz on Monday, a day after Madrid came from two goals down to win 3-2 at top-four contenders Sevilla.

Carlo Ancelotti's Los Blancos still have Real Betis and Atletico Madrid to face in the final weeks of the season, but their 15-point lead looks to have secured the league title already.

However, Laporta is refusing to give up hope on an unlikely turnaround from Barca, who have a game in hand on the leaders.

"This holy week has been like the passion of Jesus Christ," Laporta said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"Holy Thursday was a disappointment and we ended Easter Monday with another. We have to recover and strengthen. After yesterday's setback, I'm not throwing in the towel.

"In football, anything can happen. I would have liked to speak today after beating Cadiz and talk about things I wanted, but if I did it would seem that I am going to be a victim."

The Cadiz loss further compounded a miserable week for Barca, who were eliminated at the Europa League quarter-final stage by Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.

Laporta, who assured investigations are underway into how almost 25,000 Eintracht fans turned Camp Nou into somewhat of a home stadium for the Bundesliga side, believes Xavi "is looking for solutions".

"We were improving and now we are at a standstill," Laporta continued.

"In this final stretch of the league [season] we were doing well. We got a good result at the [Santiago] Bernabeu [4-0 win over Madrid] and now we're struggling to win.

"It's obvious. In the first leg against Eintracht we didn't play a [good] game, and in the second leg we lost. Against Levante, we also struggled.

"Xavi is analysing what happened and looking for solutions. But we also have to take into account that injuries are not helping us. A player like Pedri, a starter and a standout player, has been injured."

Barca will look to get back on track when they visit Real Sociedad on Thursday, and Laporta reiterated his belief in the Blaugrana.

"The situation is different from what we expected," he added.

"But while there is life, there is hope. Mathematically, it is possible. We have to fight in the seven [upcoming] finals to try to get the best possible final result.

"We mustn't throw in the towel, but it's going to be difficult to win the league. We have to be aware that we have seven finals and we have to win them to be in the Champions League."

Barcelona coach Xavi was left seething after his side missed a "golden opportunity" to move clear in second place in LaLiga.

Having been eliminated from the Europa League on home soil by Eintracht Frankfurt last Thursday, Barca lost consecutive games at Camp Nou for the first time since April 2003 as lowly Cadiz condemned them to a 1-0 defeat.

Lucas Perez's second-half winner marked the 32nd goal Barca have conceded in 31 league games this season, their worst tally at this stage of a season since the 2012-13 campaign (33).

Barca's 15-match unbeaten run in the league had seen them harbour hopes of a title challenge, but they now have just seven games left to catch Real Madrid, who are 15 points clear.

Indeed, Barca's main focus will now realistically be on the teams below them. Atletico Madrid and Sevilla sit on 60 points, like the Blaugrana, but Real Betis (57) and Real Sociedad (55) are not far behind.

"We're p***** off," Xavi told reporters. "We have lost a golden opportunity to distance ourselves from the fight for the Champions League and to continue in the fight for the title. We have almost said goodbye to LaLiga. 

"We are Barca and we must do more. The team should have shown more desire and enthusiasm. It's not about attitude because the players want it, but we need a competitive character.

"They [Cadiz] defended the play as if it were the last, and we have to match that.

"We have to be humble and think that we haven't done anything. To be in the Champions League next year, we have to play with more faith, determination and drive. We have to grit our teeth because we've got a lot at stake."

Despite overseeing a dramatic upturn in fortunes since taking charge, Xavi said the defeat showed there was much work required for Barca to return to the level of his playing days.

"When you win 4-0 at the Bernabeu it's logical that you say 'we're back', but now we're also making mistakes," he added.

"We must be self-critical, and we must react to ensure the goal of Champions League [qualification]. 

"We have to work for the great Barca to come back. We beat Madrid and Sevilla with two great games with the same team and the same staff. If we've done it [before], we can do it again."

The game was played in a muted atmosphere after a prominent group of Blaugrana fans boycotted in protest at the club's handling of last week's loss to Frankfurt, where an estimated 30,000 away fans got tickets to the match.

"We need the people," Xavi said. "The other day it affected us a lot, the fans have been extraordinary. 

"Hopefully the next game they will be with us. Barcelona must be united and at least go to the Champions League next year. It's a shame they didn't come. We need everyone. It's important that in the next game at home the three points stay here."

Xavi urged Barcelona to "keep believing in the project" after his side crashed out of the Europa League on Thursday.

Barca stumbled in the Europa League quarter-final as they were eliminated by Eintracht Frankfurt, but their LaLiga form remains impressive and has guided them to second in the table.

The Blaugrana are 12 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who play third-placed Sevilla on Sunday, and are unbeaten in their last 15 Spanish top-flight games, winning their last seven.

Xavi insists his team must forget about the failure in Europe if they are to register eight straight league wins for the first time since January 2019 when they host Cadiz on Monday.

"When we started in November, we knew we needed to be more competitive, that five or six years ago we didn't compete well enough in Europe," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference.

"We have to keep believing in the project, we competed well in Napoli, not against Eintracht.

"It's a tough blow, they've eliminated us from the Europa League that we hoped to win to qualify for the Champions League and we haven't succeeded.

"We are encouraging the group, making them see where we have failed, also what we have done well. In short, it is to continue believing in what we are working on. Little by little, with patience.

"Now it's time to focus on securing the Champions League [via LaLiga]."

As for questions over his tactical methods, Xavi responded: "We have won five Champion League titles with this style. The style that [Johan] Cruyff imposed has given us much success.

"If we have doubts, we must improve this game system, what we must not do is rest on it. If we are making mistakes, we must improve it."

Barca will be hoping to have the Camp Nou filled by home fans against Cadiz, as opposed to the masses of away Eintracht fans – estimated to have been around 25,000 – that made it in for the Europa League.

Blaugrana president Joan Laporta acknowledged he was "ashamed" with the ticketing situation against the Bundesliga side, and Xavi confirmed the matter was being investigated internally.

"The club is working to solve it, as soon as they have an explanation, first they will tell us and then the media," he added.

"The players did not feel at home. It was a bad night in every way."

Barcelona boss Xavi says Eintracht Frankfurt fully deserved their stunning 3-2 victory in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie at Camp Nou on Thursday.

Filip Kostic scored twice, the first of which came from the penalty spot, and Rafael Borre slammed in from long range as the Bundesliga side sealed a memorable 4-3 aggregate win over the Catalan giants, who scored twice in stoppage time through Sergio Busquets' fine strike and a Memphis Depay penalty.

The result ended Barca's 15-game unbeaten run, which was the longest in the top five European leagues, while it was only the second time in their last seven knockout ties in Europe when they have avoided defeat in the first leg that they have been eliminated.

Xavi had no complaints about the result and admitted his side were well off the pace they have set in recent months.

"We scored two goals but we weren't able to attack in the best way," he told a media conference.

"We didn't play as well as in other games and they came out very well on the counter-attack. They had that first penalty that went very well for them and then with a great goal with a silly loss from us on the right.

"We have had control but we haven't generated enough to hurt them, and they have done it with little [of the game]. With a penalty, with a counter from a loss from us and the third comes from a play after we had been pressing.

"They are mistakes that we have paid for. This is what happens in Europe and we leave disappointed.

"It's not a failure. We've tried. It's a disappointment because we had high hopes and we've put everything on the pitch, and in the end Frankfurt won. It's a competition and if there is failure we are going to learn.

"We can only congratulate them because they deserved it."

A significant number of Frankfurt supporters roared their side on, with far more than their allocation of 5,000 present in the stadium.

Xavi says that had an impact on his side and confirmed the club is looking into why there were so many opposition fans.

"The atmosphere hasn't helped us," he added. "We expected some 70,000 or 80,000 people from Catalonia and that hasn't happened. It looked like a final with divided support. I think the club is checking what happened."

Barca are next in action on Monday when they host Cadiz in LaLiga.

Xavi has claimed the Champions League achievements of Real Madrid and Villarreal show the strength of LaLiga is close to that of the Premier League.

Madrid overcame English side and defending European champions Chelsea at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday to reach the Champions League semi-finals, despite losing 3-2 on the night, while Villarreal shocked Bayern Munich 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena to also advance.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Barcelona's own European quarter-final second leg in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt, Xavi questioned what he believes to be the consensus that the Premier League is a "much higher level" compared to Spain.

"Yesterday, I thought LaLiga isn't that far off from the Premier League," the Blaugrana head coach said. "There is this debate about the Premier League being a much higher level than LaLiga. We have two Spanish clubs in the semi-finals.

"People say it is not difficult to play in LaLiga, but the Premier League isn't far from LaLiga."

Despite being eliminated from the group stage of the Champions League earlier this season, the Barca boss expressed excitement at competing in the Europa League, though he insisted the club wants to be back in Europe's premier competition as soon as possible.

"It's not quite as highly rated as the Champions League but it's a European title which we're excited to play for," he said. "The team is motivated and ready.

"We're working to get back into the Champions League. Yesterday we had to watch from home and that was painful for us, but we must use it to motivate us to be back there."

Barca centre back Eric Garcia also spoke to the media on Wednesday, and compared Xavi to club legend Pep Guardiola, who Garcia previously played for at Manchester City.

When asked about the influence of Xavi since his arrival in November, Garcia said: "He is showing us a lot with the ball and our distribution.

"Him and Pep are quite similar in this way. Xavi is very close to the players, he talks a lot with you and gives you advice, which is very important to the players.

"It's a shame we have only had a few months with him, but there is a lot of hope for the future ahead of us with him."

Xavi acknowledged his "respect" for Robert Lewandowski but offered little more on the Bayern Munich striker ahead of a key European game for Barcelona.

Lewandowski has scored 47 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions for Bayern this season and won The Best FIFA Men's Player award in January.

Bayern were surprisingly eliminated from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage on Tuesday, despite Lewandowski finding the net against Villarreal, who won 2-1 on aggregate.

Oliver Kahn, the Bayern chief executive, said ahead of that second leg the club "definitely" would not sell Lewandowski, who has a year remaining on his contract.

But the former Borussia Dortmund man has been linked with a move to Camp Nou at the end of the season.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Barca's Europa League quarter-final second leg against Eintracht Frankfurt, Xavi said: "It is not the moment to talk about Lewandowski.

"I respect him a lot as a player, but we focus on tomorrow's match and not potential signings. I will not say anything else about it."

The Blaugrana drew 1-1 in Germany in last week's first leg, where Xavi was unhappy with the length of the grass at the Waldstadion, but he is confident at Camp Nou his players will be able to utilise their possession-based football.

"It's true the pitch wasn't 100 per cent. It is important tomorrow the pitch is good. It should help us improve retention of the ball," Xavi said.

Barca have not lost in 15 games in all competitions, winning 11 of those, and the arrival of Xavi in November has seen the team restore some pride after a dreadful start to the campaign that included elimination from the Champions League group stages for the first time in over two decades.

Despite this form, Xavi declared his coaching job as the "most difficult" in the world, believing the pressure to win as well as play good football makes the Barca role the toughest in football.

"We have an obligation to win and play well," he said. "Imagine what it's like to be at Barca. All week there has been debate about the weekend when we won in the 90th minute [against Levante]. That's what it's like being in Barca. We need to be excellent in everything we do.

"That's why it's the most difficult club in the world. There is nothing to compare it to. In no other country is there a more difficult job.

"We have to win while playing well and that's difficult. Very difficult. It's the most complicated club in the world, I am sure of it."

Barcelona sealed a seventh straight LaLiga win as Luuk de Jong's stoppage-time header earned a dramatic 3-2 victory over a Levante side who were awarded three penalties.

Jose Luis Morales' penalty seven minutes after the interval handed the hosts the lead, and they could have been 2-0 up moments later, yet Roger Marti's spot-kick was kept out by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Barcelona took advantage of that reprieve, moving 2-1 ahead within seven minutes of the miss thanks to goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Pedri.

Levante thought they had claimed a point when Gonzalo Melero slammed home from the spot with seven minutes remaining, but substitute De Jong popped up in added time to claim yet another maximum-points haul for the Blaugrana.

Ronaldinho believes Barcelona can chase down LaLiga leaders Real Madrid after his former Blaugrana team-mate Xavi restored "hope" at the club.

Barca have surged up the table after appointing Xavi as boss last November, climbing from ninth to third following a 14-game unbeaten run in the Spanish top flight, including a 4-0 Clasico thumping of Madrid,

That undefeated streak is the longest ongoing run in Europe's top-five leagues, and Barca have won six LaLiga matches in a row, keeping a clean sheet in the past three games.

Barca's next task will be a trip to Levante on Sunday as the Catalan club search for four straight wins in the competition without conceding for the first time since December 2018.

And Ronaldinho, who played with Xavi during his five-year spell at Barca between 2003 and 2008, believes the former midfielder has brought the faith back for the Blaugrana supporters.

"I have returned to take a good look at Barça with Xavi, who has returned and has brought us hope," he told Mundo Deportivo. 

"As my friend and former team-mate that he is, this excites people and me too. When he played, he already had a vision of the game as a coach. 

"He guided the game and I see it very well because he makes us want to watch Barca games again."

Barca evoked memories of the 2003-04 season, when they defeated Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu before making a late title charge, by demolishing Carlo Ancelotti's side on the road last month.

Xavi's team would move 12 points behind Madrid with victory at Levante, while still having a game in hand, and Ronaldinho says they can win the title.

"[The 2003-04 season win at Madrid] was a very nice comeback that we have had in our time and it can happen again," he added. 

"As I said, we are excited that Barca will play well again and I think anything is possible."

Pressed on whether Barca could complete the unthinkable turnaround to steal the LaLiga title from Madrid, the Brazil great responded: "I hope so and as a fan I am hoping that things go well and I think there can be."

While uncertainty remains where the LaLiga title will be heading when the season concludes, one thing is for sure; Ronaldinho has no intentions of entering management or coaching any time soon.

"The truth is that I have never seen myself this way, it may be that in the future I will, when I have more patience," he said when asked if he would join Xavi as his assistant. 

"It's difficult when you leave football and you have a way of looking at it, wanting others to do things that are very difficult for them to do. So, I still have no patience."

Xavi had no issue with Dani Alves' controversial opinion on Erling Haaland's worth, saying he would forgive his former Barcelona team-mate for anything. 

Alves, 38, is back at Barca as a veteran player under Xavi, having featured alongside the coach in hugely successful Blaugrana teams earlier this century. 

Xavi has enjoyed being able to work with his old colleague again, but Barca have their sights set on rather more ambitious signings at the end of this season. 

Borussia Dortmund sensation Haaland has regularly been linked with a move to Camp Nou, although Barca are far from alone in admiring a striker whose contract reportedly includes a €75million release clause. 

However, right-back Alves has claimed Kylian Mbappe – widely expected to join rivals Real Madrid – "is a more complete player than Haaland in all aspects of the game". 

"I wouldn't do crazy things for Haaland," the Brazil defender told Sport. "Honestly, I wouldn't spend a lot of money on him." 

Alves' employers Barca, on the other hand, may well be up for splashing out on the 21-year-old – but that does not mean Xavi was concerned by his player's comments. 

"I forgive Dani everything, anything he says," the Barca boss said at a media conference ahead of Sunday's game against Levante. "He's a phenomenon, really. 

"Sometimes you guys complain that you don't have headlines, right? Well, with Dani, it's hard to choose just one. He is a phenomenon. 

"The truth is that the signing of him has gone very well for us, he is a natural leader. It is a spectacle, both for us and for you." 

On Haaland, Xavi added: "We'll see. Yes, we are planning for next year, but let's see. The situation is not easy, especially financially, economically." 

Whether Barca can afford the type of sums required to both sign and pay Haaland remains to be seen, but Xavi is confident he has the club's backing. 

"[The club] know my priorities," he said. "From here on, whatever we can do, well, we are going to do it, but it is true that we have to be very prudent and very cautious because the economic situation is what it is." 

Xavi called on Barcelona fans to make Camp Nou "a pressure cooker" after they drew 1-1 against Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final.

Ansgar Knauff gave Eintracht the lead with a fine finish early in the second half at a raucous Deutsche Bank Park on Thursday, but Ferran Torres equalised after a brilliant exchange with Frenkie de Jong. 

The Bundesliga side saw Tuta sent off with just over 10 minutes remaining following a second bookable offence, but Barca were unable to pinch a winner in the closing stages. 

However, by avoiding defeat their unbeaten run stretched to 14 games – their best streak since January-May 2019 under Ernesto Valverde. 

Barca had almost two-thirds of the possession but mustered fewer than half the attempts on goal of Eintracht, who were a persistent threat on the counter-attack. 

Xavi felt his team were hindered by the state of the pitch and hopes a fiery atmosphere in Catalonia in next Thursday's second leg can help the Blaugrana advance to the semi-finals. 

"They were a very physical opponent. They got forward like hell in transitions. We didn't have the ball circulation and the state of the pitch didn't help us," Xavi told Movistar. 

"We leave quite satisfied and Camp Nou will have to be a pressure cooker, like it was in their stadium. 

"Normally the team that's in control creates more, but we were not able to stop their devilish counter-attacks. We had already been warned – they eliminated a team like [Real] Betis [in the last 16]." 

Gerard Pique hobbled off in the first half with an apparent groin injury but Xavi was unable to provide a meaningful update on the centre-back. 

Sergio Busquets, who would have given a penalty away for a tackle on Rafael Borre had it not been for VAR, acknowledged Barca will need to be better in the second leg. 

"The goal gives us a lot of life because we had come to win but it was very difficult," said Busquets. 

"There are things to improve. We will do better in the second leg with our fans and a pitch that will surely be better and faster. 

"Barca are always a candidate to win everything. We had a period that wasn't the best but we're doing things well. 

"We respect all the teams. Anything can happen and we will try to win." 

Barca have progressed in three of the five knockout rounds in Europe's secondary competition after drawing the first leg away from home. They were eliminated in the last such instance by Bayern Munich in the 1995-96 season. 

Xavi has reiterated his admiration for Ousmane Dembele's professionalism as the Barcelona boss confirmed negotiations over a new contract for the winger were under way.

Dembele was told publicly to leave Barca by the club during the January transfer window, after contract talks broke down.

The France international's current deal runs out at the end of the season, meaning he will be able to leave Camp Nou on a free transfer.

However, with no move having materialised before the end of January, Dembele has been reintegrated into Xavi's squad and seems to have rediscovered his form.

Dembele has started Barca's last four LaLiga matches, providing five assists across those appearances.

The 24-year-old also scored and teed up two other goals as a substitute in a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at the end of February.

On Tuesday, with Barca's squad given a day off ahead of travelling to Germany for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, Dembele was spotted going to the club's training ground, with reports stating that he did extra physical work.

"He's an example in the way he trains, the way he plays, his attitude and commitment," Xavi told a news conference when asked about Dembele. 

"I don't know how he was before but I've got no complaints. I see a very happy, very motivated player and with his winning attitude.

"He's happy and comfortable here and so that's not a surprise that he trained on his day off. He's a great professional, I said that when he wasn't playing as well."

Dembele created seven chances in Barca's win over Sevilla on Sunday, also providing the pass for Pedri's goal in a 1-0 victory.

Earlier this week, Barca executive Mateu Alemany reportedly met with Dembele's agent to restart negotiations over a new deal, and this speculation was confirmed by Xavi.

"It is a negotiation. We are also in talks with Ronald [Araujo], Gavi, Sergi Roberto, it is a process," he said.

"The club knows my priorities and we are working. Hopefully Dembele can stay, with work he can be the best in his position.

"The club is working hard and I hope they decide to stay. Gavi, Araujo, Dembele... if we can have them next year we'll be a better team and squad."

Xavi was equally as effusive in his praise for Araujo, who he revealed has agreed to fresh terms.

"For us he is a guarantee and Barcelona have a central defender for ten years or more," Xavi said.

"There are few central defenders in the world like him. He has been the key in the negotiation. He is very humble, direct, he is a luxury.

"I am delighted. As a person he is a hard worker. Barcelona fans can be proud that he has decided to stay at Barcelona."

Pedri is among the best players in world football, so says his Barcelona club-mate Ferran Torres.

Barca midfielder Pedri is enjoying another fine season after his breakout campaign at Camp Nou in 2020-21.

Though the early part of his season was hindered by injury, Pedri has emerged as a crucial figure as Xavi has rejuvenated Barca since taking over from Ronald Koeman.

Having missed the final three months of 2021, Pedri's 2022 has been brilliant so far, and he scored an exquisite goal against Sevilla in a 1-0 LaLiga win on Sunday.

The 19-year-old Spain international also netted against Galatasaray to help Barca progress to the Europa League quarter-finals, with Eintracht Frankfurt next up.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's clash in Germany, Torres said that is a "luxury" to play alongside such a talent.

"It doesn't surprise us," Torres told a news conference when asked about Pedri's form.

"Seeing him every day is a luxury, he has great quality and how he's handling it, with humility."

Torres also spoke glowingly of coach Xavi, whose team are unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions and are now up to second in LaLiga.

"Xavi has transmitted his confidence to me from the first day. I'm in good shape and helping the team," the former Manchester City forward added.

Barca are facing Frankurt for the first time in their history. The Bundesliga club have never lost at home in major European competition in the quarter-finals and beyond (P16 W12 D4 L0) – this is the most such games any side has ever played in major European competition without being defeated.

And Torres insisted overconfidence will be no issue.

"The coach makes it clear to us that we have to go game by game because if you lose tomorrow, nobody remembers the dynamic. Humility, work and desire to achieve victory," he said.

"It is the first step to fight for that Europa League and we will do everything on our part to achieve it."

Xavi promised Barcelona will "keep fighting" until it is mathematically impossible to win the LaLiga title after moving into second place on Sunday.

A hard-fought 1-0 win against Sevilla at Camp Nou came thanks to a well-taken Pedri goal, and it saw Barca leapfrog their opponents and Atletico Madrid in the table.

They remain 12 points adrift of leaders Real Madrid, but Barca ended Sevilla's 15-game unbeaten run in the league, and are now undefeated in 14 LaLiga games themselves.

Speaking after the victory, Xavi was upbeat despite the big gap between his team and Madrid, who Barcelona thrashed 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in their last game away from home.

"I am very positive, I believe in work, effort, sacrifice and collective work," Xavi told reporters. "We are very good. We are supportive, we all work, we run. With this base, the results should come.

"This is the best moment of the season. We have dominated a great opponent, with the best defence in LaLiga. [Sevilla] are a super team, and [Julen] Lopetegui is a magnificent coach."

Barca have now kept a clean sheet in three consecutive league games at Camp Nou for the first time since a run of four between February and June in 2020.

Xavi said his team did not think about "sending a message", but he was pleased with the efforts of the fans and insisted the players will try to chase down Madrid.

"We didn't send a message to anyone," he added. "We sent it to ourselves. We won and enjoyed ourselves.

"The atmosphere was extraordinary. And in LaLiga, as long as the numbers don't say otherwise, we'll keep fighting."

The Blaugrana head coach also had words of praise for the match-winner, suggesting that teenager Pedri "has no comparison".

"He is a super player," said an enthused Xavi. "He has scored an extraordinary goal. He makes a difference. It is a spectacle to watch him play, and he is only 19 years old.

"It does not surprise me. He has no comparison. I encourage him to shoot, but he is a passer and he has in mind the last pass, the decisive one. But he doesn't realise that he has to try [to shoot]. Today he scored a great goal."

Pedri was pleased with that strike and is enjoying playing in an emerging Barca side under Xavi. The teenager has scored two goals in his last seven LaLiga games, as many as in his previous 34 appearance in the competition. This was also his first goal from outside the box for the Catalan giants.

"[The goal was] similar to the one in Turkey [against Galatasaray in the Europa League]," Pedri told reporters after the game.

"We press better [under Xavi], more calm, and we have a lot of firepower with the [January] signings.

"We know that it is difficult [to catch Madrid], but we are Barca, and we have to fight to be first."

Xavi refused to be drawn on talk of Barcelona signing Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger ahead of Sunday's LaLiga showdown with Sevilla.

Sahr Senesie, Rudiger's half-brother and agent, was this week pictured entering a hotel in Barcelona with Blaugrana director of football Mateu Alemany and technical director Jordi Cruyff.

The Germany centre-back is out of contract at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season and has been free to talk to clubs from overseas since January.

But Barca head coach Xavi is focused on masterminding a win at Camp Nou this weekend that would move his side above Sevilla into second place, rather than potential new recruits.

He said during a press conference on Saturday: "I'm not going to talk about signings, we have a lot at stake. It is true that Mateu, Jordi and the board are working for next season, but our [job] is to go for second place tomorrow."

Ousmane Dembele is in a similar situation to Rudiger, with his Barca deal expiring at the conclusion of the campaign.

Xavi praised the France winger's professionalism amid uncertainty over his future and says only the 24-year-old can decide where he will be playing next season.

He said: "I haven't had a single complaint about Dembele at a professional level since I arrived. He's a footballer of many levels, well worked, I still think he can be the best in his position. It's up to him, the renewal depends on him."

Meanwhile, the Barca boss is optimistic Gavi and Ronald Araujo, who are both under contract until the end of next season, will sign new deals.

"The club cannot afford to lose Gavi and Araujo, they are very important to us and I show it with the minutes I give them. I am optimistic and I hope a solution is reached," Xavi said.

Barca are unbeaten in 12 matches and have won five consecutive games in the Spanish top flight, the last of which was a 4-0 Clasico thrashing of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu before the international break.

The Catalan giants are 12 points adrift of Los Blancos with a game in hand and Xavi has demanded they maintain their momentum at the expense of Sevilla.

"The message is to continue, not to let our guard down, not to relax," he said. "The Bernabeu was good, but the goals are to be as high as possible in the league and win the Europa League." 

The coach added: "The break could have been good for us. It is a final sprint in which we have to grit our teeth."

Luuk de Jong will not face his parent club after testing positive for coronavirus, while Sergino Dest, Samuel Umtiti, Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto are ruled out due to injury.

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