Michael Laudrup has questioned whether Barcelona need to sign Erling Haaland and is unsure whether the Norwegian would suit Xavi's style of play.

The Borussia Dortmund striker, who has hit 16 Bundesliga goals at a rate of just 75.31 minutes per goal this campaign, has been linked with a close-season move to many of Europe's biggest clubs.

Barcelona have been touted as a possible destination for the 21-year-old, but club president Joan Laporta recently suggested that such a transfer might be beyond the Catalan Giants, saying he wouldn't "do deals that could put the institution at risk".

Former Blaugrana forward Laudrup, who scored 40 league goals during a five-year spell at Camp Nou between 1989 and 1994, pondered whether Haaland's attributes would suit the patient passing game preferred by head coach and Barca legend Xavi.

"I have doubts as to whether he [Xavi] needs a striker like him," Laudrup told Catalonian radio station RAC1.

"I don't argue with Haaland as a goalscorer. He's incredible. He keeps scoring and scoring and it's no coincidence. The only thing is that he is a very physical player who needs a little space. 

"He is not the ideal player [for Barcelona], he does not participate with the ball and in combinations in narrow spaces. He has to play in a team that plays and then gives him balls. 

"He will always score goals in any team but I have doubts about how he plays compared to how he plays with Barca".

Ahead of their huge Clasico clash with Real Madrid on Sunday, Barcelona have taken 34 points from 15 games in LaLiga since Xavi took over as coach, a record bettered only by Madrid, who have taken 39 points in that period.

 

Barcelona were languishing in ninth place in LaLiga when Xavi's predecessor Ronald Koeman departed, but Laudrup, who won the 1992 European Cup alongside Koeman as part of Johan Cruyff's legendary Blaugrana side, says his former team-mate did not get the same level of backing from the club's hierarchy as Xavi has.

"I haven't spoken with him [Koeman] recently," Laudrup added. "But I have followed Barca also in Ronald's time and his moment was a difficult moment for Barcelona, due to the debt, Messi's goodbye. 

"Ronald came at the most difficult time for Barcelona in recent years. He had a lot of problems. 

"Now Xavi has come and things have improved, the easiest thing is to say that with Xavi things are going much better. Xavi will be a great coach, and I'm not saying this to defend Ronald, but in his [Koeman's] time, due to some circumstances, there were no chances of signing [new players]. 

"Now with Xavi in January, Ferran [Torres] arrived, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and Adama [Traore]. You have to remember those chances that Xavi has had, Ronald didn't have.

"Justice in football, sometimes [it] exists and sometimes [it] doesn't. Ronald will have had his faults, like everyone else, but he hasn't had the squad possibilities that there are now with Xavi."

Spotify's new $235million deal with Barcelona has given the Spanish side some extra spending money, and all eyes are on Manchester United's Paul Pogba.

The Red Devils were eliminated from the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, and currently occupy fifth spot in the Premier League table in what has been a disappointing season.

Pogba recently made headlines after his home was burgled while he played in the second leg of United's tie against Atletico, coming off the bench in the 1-0 loss at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA CLOSE IN ON POGBA 

According to The Daily Star, Barcelona's recent windfall has the club looking around at options to add to Xavi's side, with Pogba now considered within their price range and near the top of the list.

Pogba, 29, has nine assists and one goal in his 16 Premier League appearances this season, with his contract set to expire this summer.

Meanwhile, TuttoJuve say Manchester United have identified Dutch 19-year-old Ryan Gravenberch as a potential replacement if they can pry him away from Ajax. 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona coach Xavi has said club legend Lionel Messi will "always be welcome" back at Camp Nou. However, Marca also report that Messi does not plan to leave Paris Saint-Germain during his two-year contract.

- According to Fichajes, Newcastle United are interested in signing superstar forward Neymar, who is under contract at PSG through 2025.

- Juventus are to target a move for Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus, The Daily Star reports, if the English giants manage to sign Norwegian striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport suggest that Antonio Rudiger is set to join Juventus when his Chelsea contract expires this summer, signing a four-year deal with the iconic Italian club.

- Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta has agreed to a free transfer to Barcelona, with the deal expected to be completed at the end of the season according to Football Insider.

- The agent of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho said he would one day like to return to Serie A, according to The Daily Mirror. The 30-year-old Italian spent three seasons with Hellas Verona, and five seasons with Napoli before heading to the Premier League.

Xavi has explained that Barcelona will always welcome Lionel Messi back while he is coach of the Blaugrana.

Messi left Barca last year in a move that stunned the world of football, with the Spanish giants unable to afford to fulfil the terms of a new contract that had been all but agreed with the 34-year-old.

That meant Messi could leave as a free agent and he joined Paris Saint-Germain, though his switch to the French capital has not quite hit the expected heights just yet. 

PSG look set to cruise to the Ligue 1 title yet fell to a humbling defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16.

Messi, who will miss PSG's clash with Monaco this weekend due to illness, has scored just seven goals in all competitions.

However, along with Kylian Mbappe, he does top the assists chart in Ligue 1 with 10 so far, while his 48 chances created ranks him as the most creative player in PSG's squad in the French top flight.

There has been speculation that Messi could leave PSG at the end of the season and though it seems unlikely that the Parisians would be willing to lose him and Mbappe, who is out of contract and seems set to join Madrid, Xavi would not turn down the opportunity to be reunited with his former team-mate, whether that be as a sensational transfer or simply as a visitor.

"Messi has earned having the doors open to Barca," Xavi told a news conference ahead of El Clasico on Sunday.

"As long as I'm the coach here, if he wants to come every day to watch training or talk to the coach, what he's given us is priceless, he's the best player in history.

"He deserves a big tribute from the club. But today he has a contract with PSG, I think he signed for two years."

Xavi called on Barcelona to change their recent fortunes against Real Madrid, although he was unsure whether his side struggled with an "inferiority complex" against their Clasico rivals.

Barca are 15 points adrift of Carlo Ancelotti's runaway LaLiga leaders and have lost their past five games against Madrid in all competitions.

That streak has only been bettered once in meetings between the two rivals, with Los Blancos enjoying a seven-game winning run between April 1962 and February 1965.

However, since Xavi's arrival, Barca have climbed to third in the league, taking 34 points from 15 games in LaLiga, a record only beaten by Madrid in that period (39 points).

The Blaugrana head coach wants his side to call upon that recent form to right the wrongs of previous clashes with Ancelotti's team.

"I don't know if there was an inferiority complex, I wasn't in charge," Xavi told reporters at Saturday's pre-match news conference when asked about Barca's recent Clasico record.

"It's a great opportunity to change history, and a win would greatly support what we're working on.

"I don't know if we arrive with more self-esteem than previous years, but we do have good dynamics and enthusiasm against a rival who are in great form.

"We have to be brave, trying to impose our ideas, but also calm because there will be moments of everything. From my experience, I can transmit calm; it is just another chance for three points, and we have to try to enjoy the occasion.

"Luckily, I have very good memories of great victories and great feelings having played very good games there [at the Santiago Bernabeu] and also winning, something that does not always happen."

 

Barca will be boosted by the confirmed absence of Madrid talisman Karim Benzema, who limped off towards the end of Monday's 3-0 win over Real Mallorca.

The France international tops the LaLiga scoring charts this season with 22 goals, finding the net on average once every 93.6 minutes, and also leads the way with 11 assists.

Xavi acknowledged Benzema's injury will be a blow to Madrid's chances, with the striker having scored in two of his past three meetings with Barca in all competitions, as many as he had in his previous 16 appearances against the Blaugrana.

"Benzema is one of the best strikers in the world, it's a bad loss, but for us our approach doesn't change," Xavi said. "I suppose that for them it can change something.

"How to replace Benzema is a question for Ancelotti, but he has options."

Even with victory in the Spanish capital, Xavi acknowledges Barca's chances of a title push remain incredibly slim.

Asked if there was greater pressure to win against Madrid to spark a late surge, he responded: "I don't see it that way, the pressure is the same.

"If we win, we would be closer to the first objective, which is to be in the Champions League next season. But I see winning the league as complicated. We would be within 12 points, with a game in hand, it is complicated.

"If we win, I do see a parallel with 2004 [a 2-1 win at Madrid]. That victory didn't help us win the league either, but it did strengthen us and change the dynamic, as could happen now."

Xavi perfectly embodies the characteristics of Barcelona and has improved the Catalan giants since taking over, according to Real Madrid counterpart Carlo Ancelotti.

The pair are set to face off at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday in the third and final Clasico of the season, with Madrid boasting a 10-point lead at the LaLiga summit.

Barcelona are five points further back, albeit with a game in hand, in what has been a disappointing campaign on the whole for the club.

Results have improved over the past two months, however, with Xavi – appointed as Ronald Koeman's successor in November – steadily transforming his side's fortunes.

Since Xavi's appointment, Barcelona have taken 34 points from 15 games in LaLiga, a record only bettered by Madrid since then (39 points).

Thursday's 2-1 win over Galatasaray helped Xavi's side through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, meanwhile, and extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches.

That is Barca's longest-such streak since January 2020 under Ernesto Valverde, giving Xavi's side some momentum heading into their showdown with fierce rivals Madrid.

And Ancelotti, whose three defeats in five LaLiga meetings with Barca is his joint-worst against any side in LaLiga, along with Atletico Madrid, has been impressed by Xavi's work.

"The identity of Barcelona has not changed," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference. "They are a team with a very clear style and Xavi embodies it perfectly. 

"Barcelona have improved a lot and they are in a good dynamic. My opinion is that he is doing very well."

 

Xavi is still early in his coaching career, especially in comparison to veteran of the dugout Ancelotti, with Sunday's clash his second taste of this historic fixture as a manager.

The midfield legend is aiming to avoid becoming only the third Barca boss, after Ernesto Valverde and Ronald Koeman, to lose his first two Clasicos this century.

Defeat for Barca would see them fall 18 points behind the leaders, but Ancelotti insists the game in the Spanish capital is not make-or-break for the visitors.

"If we win we have three more points; if we tie, one; if we lose, none," he said. "I wouldn't rule out Barcelona in any case, whatever happens. Because they will fight until the end."

Should Barca avoid defeat, Xavi will become only the second Barca coach to go unbeaten in his first 10 LaLiga away games after Ernesto Valverde, who was unbeaten in 18.

Barcelona travel to the Spanish capital to take on Real Madrid in El Clasico on Sunday, and for the first time in a long time, they do so with somewhat justified optimism.

As Bob Dylan said, "the times, they are-a-changin'".

That will perhaps be one of the many songs we will hear blaring out at Camp Nou after Barcelona signed a deal with music streaming giant Spotify for naming rights to the iconic stadium from next season.

This is a club that until 2006 thought it uncouth to even have a shirt sponsor, and when they eventually did, it was a philanthropic deal with UNICEF.

Eventually, the increasing need for vast sums of money in order to stay relevant at football's top table led to the Blaugrana signing a deal with Qatar Airways, though their financial situation has famously worsened in recent years.

That, of course, has been largely down to poor decisions in terms of contract negotiations and recruitment, with their transfer strategy on shuffle in the past five years.

On and off the field, it seemed like Barca were getting further and further away from their roots, though they tried to turn that around by bringing in former European Cup-winning defender Ronald Koeman.

The Dutchman replaced Quique Setien in August 2020 and led Barca to Copa del Rey success in his first season, but they finished third in LaLiga and suffered a Champions League last-16 exit, as well as losing the Supercopa de Espana final to Athletic Bilbao.

A shock 1-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano in late October 2021 spelled the end for Koeman, but the decision to replace him with Xavi felt like it could have been a different colour of the same thinking, that you need someone who 'gets the club' rather than simply an elite coach.

Pep Guardiola had no affiliation with Manchester City before going to the Etihad Stadium, as with Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool or Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea.

However, while Koeman was a former player and European Cup winner, Xavi was a figure from the club's real golden generation, an era the club and their fans are eager to return to.

Barca felt at their lowest ebb after losing Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain due to financial constraints at the end of last season. They were out of the LaLiga title race early on after winning just four of their first 12 games (D5 L3), before arguably the ultimate humiliation of Champions League elimination in the group stage for the first time in 21 years.

Xavi's first game in charge was somewhat appropriately a derby against Espanyol. It was nervy, it was uncertain, but it was at least a 1-0 win.

Ahead of the home game with Elche in December, the 42-year-old suggested part of the problem was some of his players' inability to grasp "juego de posicion" – "the position game" – a structured approach to play with and without the ball in which the great Barca sides thrived.

In a video for The Coaches' Voice while still manager of Al Sadd, Xavi outlined his philosophy, saying: "The most important, the most beautiful and the most precious thing in football is to have the ball, and to attack and dominate the game with the ball.

"It's clear to me that my team has to control the ball. I suffer when I don't have it. It happened to me when I was a footballer and now even more so on the bench.

"How do I set up the team? Regardless of the system, in the end, the most important thing is this philosophy that we talked about. Total control of the ball – it matters a lot to me. I'm obsessed with possession, and not just to have the ball for the sake of having it, but to attack and create chances and hurt the opposition."

Since Xavi's arrival, Barca have taken 34 points from 15 games in LaLiga (W10 D4 L1), a record only bettered by Real Madrid in that time (39 points – W12 D3 L1).

 

They have also not lost any of their nine away league games since the legendary midfielder was appointed (W5 D4), and should they avoid defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu, Xavi would become only the second Barca coach to be unbeaten in his first 10 away games in the competition after Ernesto Valverde.

Results have clearly improved, but what changes has Xavi actually made to the underachieving side he inherited?

Comparing his 24 games in charge so far with the 13 overseen by Koeman at the start of the season – it would be unfair to look at the Dutchman's entire record at the club given he had statistic monster Messi at his disposal last season – the improvements have been slight yet significant.

Interestingly, their average possession has only risen slightly, from 63.8 per cent to 64.5, while the average number of passes per game has gone from 604.4 to 625.8.

Given Xavi's insistence that possession must also lead to chances that "hurt the opposition", it is a slight surprise to see that Koeman actually saw marginally more big chances created (2.23 per game to 2.21), but Barca now have more shots on goal (15.0 per game, up from 11.2) and are averaging a goal every 47 minutes, drastically up from one every 73 under Koeman.

One thing that may cause some surprise is the apparent willingness to go long more often under Xavi, hitting 52.1 long passes per game compared to 43.6 under Koeman. This does not mean they are becoming a long ball team, rather that they appear to be more willing to play riskier balls to try to turn the opposition around with one pass rather than the possession for the sake of possession Xavi spoke of.

 

This could also be a result of the additions the coach has made to the squad, despite obvious limitations in terms of budget.

The former Premier League trio of Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might all be used to playing more direct styles and have impressed since arriving from England.

The return of Dani Alves may have raised eyebrows, but the 38-year-old – while understandably not quite the Alves of old – has restored a certain energy and spirit, even contributing four goal involvements in his eight appearances so far (one goal, three assists).

Xavi no doubt also sees the benefits of having such an experienced head around young stars like Pedri and Gavi, who have both established themselves as vital components of the team being put together.

Another interesting sub-plot to Xavi's brief tenure has been Ousmane Dembele, who still looks like he will be leaving Camp Nou at the end of the campaign once his contract expires.

The club were desperate to move the France international on in January but unable to do so, and it seemed Dembele may just sit in the stands to see out the final months of his deal.

However, Xavi has decided to bring the enigmatic attacker back into the fold, and that call seems to be paying off, with Dembele putting in some star performances in recent weeks, registering five assists in his past four LaLiga appearances, as many as he managed in his previous 45 league games for the club.

The improvement seen at Camp Nou will be put to the test in the Clasico, with Madrid the team to beat in Spain for now.

Xavi will be seeking to change that fact in the coming seasons but first must ensure he continues to get a tune out of his players before the reported €280m Spotify deal kicks in – starting on Sunday.

While praising his side's win over Galatasaray in the Europa League, Barcelona coach Xavi says it can mean nothing with Sunday's El Clasico in mind.

The Blaugrana will have to back up quickly from Thursday's 2-1 win on aggregate, progressing to the quarter-finals in the process, with a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid awaiting. 

"Today was an important game, because we are playing for a European trophy," Xavi told reporters after the match. "We want to go far in this competition, and we are very happy to be in the quarter-finals, as we deserve to be there.

"Yes, we are in good form at the moment heading into El Clasico, but that means nothing.

"I have experienced everything about those games, playing badly and then winning or playing well and then they beat us. Sunday will be a different story, a very difficult and complex one."

Barcelona's win in Istanbul was partly clouded by injuries to Sergino Dest and Gerard Pique, who both had to come off in the second half.

With Barca already leading 2-1, Dest produced a desperate but perfectly-timed sliding tackle on Muhammed Aturkoglu in the 55th minute, injuring his hamstring in the process.

Dest’s injury comes at an inconvenient time for club, with Sunday’s Clasico awaiting, and country, with Gregg Berhalter announcing Dest in the United States national team’s latest squad only hours after the final whistle.

Gerard Pique was also a second-half substitute, aggravating a groin injury coming into the match and coming off for Clement Lenglet in the 81st minute.

"In the end he told me that it was difficult for him to sprint and we decided to make the change," Xavi told Movistar+ post-match.

"We weren’t there to give it away. We only won with one goal, and Pique has had discomfort for a month."

Though Dest's status is questionable for Sunday, it is as yet unclear whether Pique will be fit in time for Barcelona's clash against their fierce rivals.

Pedri says it is "crazy" to compare his goal against Galatasaray to one of the many scored by Lionel Messi after the young midfielder helped Barcelona overcome Galatasaray.

The 19-year-old levelled up in Thursday's Europa League last-16 second leg with an impressive goal before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck to earn Barca a 2-1 victory.

Pedri collected the ball in the opposition box, shimmied past both Marcao and Berkan Kutlu and then slotted past Barca loanee Inaki Pena.

It was a goal that had all the hallmarks of a trademark Messi goal in the famous Blaugrana colours, but Pedri could not see the comparisons.

"The truth is I can't really remember the goal, I'll have to see it repeated," he told Movistar+. 

"I know Ferran Torres gave it to me and I thought about shooting, but I faked the shot because I could see a leg, then I faked again until I could find a gap.

"I don't remember much about the play; these things happen on the pitch. But comparing one of my goals to Messi is crazy."

Pedri's goal arrived nine minutes after home skipper Marcao opened the scoring in the two-legged tie after getting in front of Ferran Torres to head in Alexandru Cicaldau's corner.

"Their goal helped us face up to the match better. It was difficult to come here at 0-0 and play on a pitch that is so tight – I haven't played on a pitch like that, it was crazy."

At the age of 19 years and 112 days, Pedri is the first player under 20 to score for Barcelona in the UEFA Cup or Europa League since Ivan De La Pena in April 1996.

Barca boss Xavi recently compared Pedri to club legend Andres Iniesta and reiterated after the Gala win that the sky is the limit for the Spain international.

"He is capable of this and so much more," Xavi said. "He has patience in his play and scored a great goal. He is a privilege to coach. 

"It was a spectacular goal, sublime. In addition, he generates moves with his individual actions.

Thanks to Pedri's strike and Aubameyang's second-half effort at a hostile NEF Stadyumu, Barca are now in the hat for Friday's quarter-final draw.

The LaLiga giants are unbeaten in 11 games since the tail end of January, making this their best-such run since January 2020 when Ernesto Valverde was in charge.

Xavi recently stated his side cannot be considered the favourites, despite their standing as one of Europe's most successful ever clubs, but Pedri disagrees.

"We are enjoying playing our football and that shows on the pitch," he said. "We have to go match-by-match but, yes, I think we are the favourites. We're going to go all out."

Barcelona have now progressed from eight of their past nine ties in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup and Europa League, their only elimination coming against Celtic in 2003-04.

Xavi insisted Barcelona will focus on winning the Europa League as a means to qualify the Champions League, while declaring the clash with Galatasaray on Thursday as a "final".

Barca were held to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash with Galatasaray, setting up a winner-takes-all decider in Istanbul.

The Blaugrana have progressed from seven of their last eight ties in the UEFA Cup and Europa League last 16, with their only elimination at this stage coming in 2003-04 (1-0 on aggregate versus Celtic).

Turkish side Gala have also only won one of their previous nine meetings with Barcelona across all competitions (D3 L5), with that lone victory coming in November 1994 in the Champions League (2-1).

Barca head coach Xavi sees the competition as a perfect chance to qualify for the Champions League, despite his side being likely to qualify via finishing in Spain's top four - currently sitting third in the league.

"For us the main objective is to be in the Champions League," he told reporters at Wednesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Now we are in the Europa League, which if we win it would give us access to the Champions League. We are very excited, even if it is the Europa League, we are really looking forward to it.

"For us it's a final [against Galatasaray], it's heads or tails. The first part of the first leg was not good, we didn't come out with intensity.

"The example should be the [4-0 win] over Osasuna, where we were intense and we soon managed to get ahead.

"This is a final, in a stadium where they cheer and shout more. We have to try to do what we already did [at Napoli]."

Barca face a decisive week, with the trip to Galatasaray preceding El Clasico in LaLiga as they battle Real Madrid on Sunday, but Xavi feels he is capable of handling the pressure.

"I take the pressure naturally, I like it. I'm very competitive, I'm a winner and we like to experience these situations," he added. 

"We didn't have the best result in the first leg, but I see it as an opportunity. We're in the same situation of the game in Naples and from there we came out very strong.

"This is Europe and nobody is going to give you anything. The fitness issues, above all, are the inconvenience [this week]. We try to make a specific plan so that the players who play can recover in time for Sunday."

Barca are reportedly pursuing Erling Haaland, who Xavi was said to have met in Munich, but the Norwegian could end up at Real Madrid, as well as Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe.

Asked how he would respond to the attacking stars heading to the Spanish capital, Xavi responded: "We're working on the present - we want to win and go through to the next round.

"The club is working on the future team, but the team is still more important than individual players. If they add to the team and make us better, that will be great but the team will always prevail."

Barcelona technical director Jordi Cruyff has said "we will see" about the future of Ousmane Dembele after the France international put in another impressive showing in the 4-0 home win against Osasuna on Sunday.

Dembele has been unable to agree an extension to his contract, which is due to expire at the end of this season, and spent a spell on the sidelines in January as the winger became an unpopular figure with fans at Camp Nou.

The 24-year-old did not secure a move away from Barca in the January transfer window, and head coach Xavi has slowly reintroduced him to a team in form.

Dembele registered two assists and made five key passes, the most of any Barca player, during the win against Osasuna.

Following the victory, which lifted the Blaugrana to third in LaLiga, Cruyff talked to SPORT about the former Borussia Dortmund man's future.

"The situation regarding Dembele's renewal is not easy. I think the most important thing is that he continues to help the team and the rest, we will see," Cruyff said.

"He has played a good game, like many players who end their contract with the future already done and others who are looking for a better contract. [It is important] that he continues helping the team to achieve the maximum objectives, and the rest we cannot control."

Dembele has five assists in his past four LaLiga appearances, as many as he managed in his previous 45 league games for the club.

Cruyff also had words of praise for Ferran Torres, who scored twice after coming in for criticism for missing a series of chances in previous games.

On the January arrival from Manchester City, Cruyff added: "There was more noise outside than inside... Nobody at the club had any doubts."

Barcelona head coach Xavi says Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is like "a gift from heaven" after the striker hit the ground running following his arrival from Arsenal.

The Gabon international was on target in Barca's 4-0 win over Osasuna on Sunday to make it six goals in nine appearances for the Catalan giants in all competitions.

That is two more goals than next-best Ferran Torres has managed among Barca players since Aubameyang's first outing on February 6 in a 4-2 win over Atletico Madrid.

He is averaging 0.96 goals per 90 minutes in all competitions for the LaLiga club, compared to 0.57 across his 15 games with Arsenal prior to officially swapping clubs last month.

And with Barca enjoying their best run of league form since April 2021, Xavi has been impressed by Aubameyang's contribution in front of goal so far.

"Aubameyang is a gift from heaven," Xavi said following his side's fourth successive LaLiga victory.

"He is a positive player who always enters the room in good condition and adapts very quickly to new environments. 

"Aubameyang scores goals, creates opportunities, keeps moving. It's a privilege to lead him, he's an example for other players to follow."

 

Aubameyang's strike against Osasuna came after Ferran Torres had scored twice, one of those goals coming from the penalty spot, before Riqui Puig rounded off the scoring.

That was Puig's second goal for Barcelona, and a first on home soil, on what was just his third outing this calendar year.

"It's a big day for me," he told Barca TV. "It's one of the most important days of my life for scoring my first goal at the Camp Nou and I will celebrate it with my family and friends.

"The team has an idea that we didn't have before. We have some games that we have to win and we're really looking forward to them."

Barcelona boss Xavi says he had no doubts that Ferran Torres would start shining for Barcelona after the Spain international scored a brace in Sunday's 4-0 win over Osasuna.

The 22-year-old had scored just one goal in six LaLiga appearances following his move from Manchester City, but he found the back of the net twice in a routine win that lifted the Blaugrana up to third in the table.

His first came from the penalty spot after Gavi had been fouled in the area and he added a second before the midway point with a cool finish after being picked out by the impressive Ousmane Dembele.

That brace – his first in 78 appearances in LaLiga – came from just four shots, with the 22-year-old having scored just once from his previous 16 attempts in the Spanish top flight.  

Xavi was delighted with his contribution and insisted he had no doubts Torres would soon click into gear at the Camp Nou.

"With Ferran I already said that the goals would come; it was a matter of time," he told reporters. "Besides, all the work and what he gives us up front. 

"I would say that he has been, at times, unlucky in front of goal, but fantastic in the rest. He is one of the best in the team going into space."

Barca added gloss to a 12th win in their last 14 home LaLiga games against Osasuna through goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Riqui Puig.

Aubameyang’s goal was also teed up by Dembele, who has now provided five assists in his last four LaLiga games – the joint most in the competition alongside Athletic Bilbao's Alex Berenguer and the same amount he managed in his previous 45 league games. 

"Dembele is a player who is able to make the difference through scoring, assisting and running into the penalty area. Today he played a very good game," he added.

"If you perform, you make the fans happy. People see that they give their lives for Barca and you can't fool people. You can't fool Camp Nou."

The result means third-placed Barca are 12 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who they face in El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu next Sunday.

Asked if there is any possibility of Barca making a late title charge, Xavi responded: "LaLiga is very difficult, even with winning at the Bernabeu. They have only lost two games and we would need them to lose three or four. We cannot be too optimistic."

Xavi is not concerned by Barcelona's toothless display in a goalless draw with Galatasaray as they prepare to face Osasuna in LaLiga on Sunday.

The Blaugrana were unable to find a way past Inaki Pena, who produced an inspired performance against his parent club in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 at Camp Nou on Thursday.

Barca had 16 shots, hitting the target four times as they fired a blank to bring an end to a four-match winning run.

The Catalan giants are now unbeaten in nine matches, though, and head coach Xavi is confident his fourth-placed side can fire at home to Osasuna

He said during a press conference on Saturday: "We were very good in Elche [in a 2-1 win last weekend] and they played with a low block.

"We have different solutions but you have to interpret them well in the game. We have trained [well] these days, we have made videos and we try to find solutions.

"We faced a rival who was very good, an extraordinary goalkeeper. I don't see it as a problem."

Xavi says Barca must be relentless as they attempt to maintain their unbeaten run.

"We have to maintain the intensity, they can't beat us in intensity. We can't lower it," he added.

"Being more effective changes the game. The rival has to open up and leave spaces. Getting ahead is an important advantage."

Xavi expects more quality from Barcelona going forward.

"We needed to attack better. We've analysed it. We have to be self-critical. We were better in the second half," he said.

"I don't think beyond it. My mind is not on Thursday's game against Galatasaray. Analysing Osasuna, who do things very well, I focus on tomorrow's game."

Xavi insisted his side must remain humble after their goalless home draw with Galatasaray on Thursday in the first leg of the Europa League’s last-16.

Barcelona characteristically dominated possession but failed to break down Galatasaray, who are currently 12th in the Turkish Super Lig.

Having won the Champions League three times as a player, Xavi hinted his side has to be mentally stronger, despite being the better of the two teams. This comes amid the uncommon scenario of Barcelona playing in Europe’s second-tier club competition, after being knocked out of the Champions League earlier this season.

"I already said that this is Europe and teams are here on merit. It [the Europa League] is a difficult, complicated competition and we have to continue to work hard, and with humility," he said.

"We were better than Galatasaray, the result isn’t good and perhaps a little unfair. Perhaps we were too euphoric and expectant, and winning is hard. Nothing was gained, but nothing lost. We expected to win the match, but they made it very difficult for us."

Xavi, who this week welcomed three months in charge of the embattled Catalan giants, was evidently unhappy with the first half. Barcelona held 66.9 percent possession over the opening 45 minutes, but only had as many shots as their opponents in the penalty area, with two for the half.

Frenkie de Jong was notably shifted from the deepest midfield position, with Sergio Busquets coming on straight after the interval, along with Ousmane Dembele and Gerard Pique in a triple substitution.

Further introductions for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Luuk de Jong failed to break the stalemate, but the threat Barcelona created in the second half was still relatively encouraging for the 42-year-old.

"It’s not a good result, playing at home and dominating the game in that way. It’s true we didn’t reach recent levels," he said. "We were a bit dense, especially in the first half, but we were better in the second. We generated more.

"We need to attack better and be clearer with the final ball…Galatasaray were phenomenal, they didn’t let us finish phases. It’s a shame because we generated less than in other games but we did enough to win this game."

Barcelona host Osasuna on Sunday in LaLiga, before travelling to Istanbul for the second leg with Galatasaray next Thursday.

Inaki Pena was the standout Barcelona player in Thursday's Europa League draw with Galatasaray – unfortunately for Xavi, he was playing in the opposition goal.

Goalkeeper Pena is on loan at Galatasaray from Barca, and so their unexpected meeting in European competition has provided the 23-year-old an opportunity to impress.

He did exactly that as Galatasaray returned from Camp Nou with a goalless draw, leaving the last-16 tie in the balance heading back to Turkey for the second leg.

Pena, who has never played for Barca's first team, made four saves and prevented 1.1 goals, according to expected goals on target data.

Memphis Depay was denied twice, while there were further stops from Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong on a frustrating evening for the Blaugrana.

"Inaki Pena has been spectacular," said Xavi, although he was not the only Galatasaray player worthy of praise.

The Barca coach added: "Their central defenders were phenomenal and they didn't allow us to finish our moves off. It's a shame because we dominated.

"Although we created fewer chances than normal, we created enough to score."

Pena was unsurprisingly asked how his performance might have helped his chances of a long-term Barca future, but he remains focused on the task at hand.

"I played a good game and I'm very happy with my performance," he said. "I needed minutes and here I am getting them.

"I am focused on Galatasaray. I am very clear that I have a contract with Barca and I have to return in June."

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