Xavi is urging Ousmane Dembele to "make an effort" after contract negotiations between the Frenchman and Barcelona hit an obstacle.

The 24-year-old has entered the final six months of his contract at the club, meaning he is able to begin talking with other clubs over a free transfer at the end of the season.

Dembele's Barca career has been largely disappointing since joining from Borussia Dortmund for a reported €105million in 2017, with injuries restricting him to just 86 LaLiga appearances from a possible 165.

Yet, ever since Xavi was appointed as Ronald Koeman's replacement in November, the new coach has frequently spoken of his admiration for Dembele, repeatedly backing him to be the best player in the world in his position.

Xavi remains hopeful in light of rumours suggesting Barca and the player's representatives reached something of a stumbling block in talks, though he wants Dembele to play his part as well if he truly wants to stay.

Asked about the apparent "tension" encountered in negotiations, Xavi told reporters: "I am not disappointed. It's a negotiation.

"Agents are difficult. At Barca we have a clear position and it is in progress, it's not over. I'm optimistic and I hope that Ousmane makes an effort. He has a fantastic proposition [but] there is always a tug of war.

"I hope he can stay because he is a player capable of making a difference and could be the best footballer in his position. It's an opportunity for him and he can't miss it.

 

"I don't think he'd be happier elsewhere than he is here. Barca is the best club in the world, the sporting project is going to be more important than economic [aspect], and I have let him know. That is why I am hopeful.

"I naturally told him that we need him. He is an important player for us. He knows that the project is very interesting for him. The economic issue does not concern me."

One player being linked with joining Barca is Alvaro Morata.

Reports suggest Xavi wants to bring the Atletico Madrid-owned striker back to Spain from Juventus.

While it would seemingly be a complicated deal – and that is before you consider Barca's need to offload players before registering new ones due to their salary limit – it is one that seems to make sense on the face of it.

Though Ferran Torres has arrived from Manchester City, Xavi has appeared unconvinced by his options in the striker role, with Luuk de Jong supposedly set to have his loan from Sevilla terminated, though the coach was reluctant to talk about Morata.

He said: "Let's talk about the players we have. Ferran Torres and [Dani] Alves are going to improve our squad.

"They are very good for our style of play. The rest are theories and that's something that does not concern me."

Xavi believes forcing Barcelona to play Real Mallorca on Sunday is "crazy" due to the Blaugrana's 17 first-team absences.

Barca were hit with a spate of COVID-19 cases during the winter break, with as many as 10 players testing positive for the illness.

One of those – Samuel Umtiti – has since returned a negative test meaning he is technically available for Sunday's trip, though he is not deemed match fit after being unable to train in the past week.

Additionally, Xavi is without five players through injury; Sergio Busquets is suspended; Yusuf Demir is negotiating his departure; and Ferran Torres, who is injured anyway, cannot be registered until Monday at the earliest.

While postponements have become commonplace in other competitions, such as the Premier League, regulations in LaLiga make such situations much rarer.

Teams will still have to play so long as they have 13 available players from their first and second teams. Clubs must continue to adhere to the rule that dictates a minimum of seven players registered to the senior team are on the pitch at the same time.

But that minimum can drop to five players if teams have fewer than seven professionals available for selection – essentially, as long as Barca can name five first-team players in a starting XI, their games will not be postponed, much to the frustration of Xavi.

"It makes no sense to play tomorrow," Xavi told reporters in Saturday's pre-match news conference.

"We are in an extreme situation. We have between 17-18 casualties, it depends on Umtiti, who today has tested negative but has not trained for a week.

"It's a time to suspend the game. In this way [not postponing the game], the competition is adulterated, it is crazy to play like this.

"We have no choice but to compete with who we have. Mallorca has also asked for it [the game to be postponed].

"We must appeal to common sense. It's not a complaint, it's a reality. Basketball has been suspended.

"We will play if LaLiga forces us. We've trained well, but it's a chaotic situation. Be that as it may, we will go out to compete and try to win."

Barca head into their first game of 2022 seventh in LaLiga, 18 points adrift of leaders Real Madrid.

Xavi said he would struggle to sleep after Barcelona were unable to take advantage of their dominance in a 1-1 draw with Sevilla on Tuesday.

Los Nervionenses went ahead in the 32nd minute thanks to Alejandro Gomez's cool finish, but Barca pulled level on the stroke of half-time courtesy of Ronald Araujo's header.

It was no less than Barca deserved, given they had attempted 15 shots in the opening period – the most of any team in a first half in LaLiga this season.

Jules Kounde was dismissed in the 64th minute for throwing the ball at Jordi Alba's face after a coming together between the two players, yet Barca were unable to make their numerical advantage count in the closing stages.

It meant the Blaugrana have won only one of their past eight away games in the top flight, and while Xavi was frustrated with his side's inability to leave Andalusia with all three points, he was pleased with their performance.

"We have lost two points; we deserved to win, even when it was 11 against 11," he told Movistar.

"It will be difficult for me to sleep because we should have won. Sevilla were able to cool the game down; they are a veteran team, they know what they are doing and they work very well tactically.

"This Barca is close to the one we want, to be protagonists and be brave. It is the right way.

"I have seen a Barca with personality. It is what we want and the team is growing.

"We were good at high pressuring, recovering after losing the ball and the circulation of the ball. We competed very well, despite the draw."

 

Ousmane Dembele's future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks and he showed why Barca are keen to keep hold of him with a bright display.

The France international had a game-high five shots – one of which struck the upright late on – while no player on the pitch bettered his four key passes.

He also registered his second assist in as many games, sending in the corner for Araujo's header, to equal his tally from his previous 34 appearances for Barca in all competitions.

Xavi was pleased with Dembele's contribution and wants to see more of the same when Barca resume action after the mid-season break against Real Mallorca on January 2.

"We want this from him," Xavi added. "I say the same for [Ez] Abde or Ansu [Fati] when they are playing.

"We want pure wingers in the team; let them prove how good they are.

"It's a pity the goal was missing but he played a very good match."

Xavi has declared it a priority for Barcelona to tie down their bright young stars to new contracts, to stave off the threat of other clubs pouncing.

Ahead of a clash with Sevilla on Tuesday that Xavi described as "a huge opportunity" for Barcelona, the head coach stressed his desire to keep hold of the players coming through the club's ranks.

They are set to form the backbone of Barcelona's first team for years to come, providing they can be retained, and already the club have made serious efforts in that regard.

Pedri recently signed a deal tying him to Barcelona until 2026, and Ansu Fati has committed until 2027.

Nico Gonzalez, described by Xavi on Monday as "a total footballer", has a deal running until 2024, and Gavi is reportedly close to signing a long-term deal that Xavi wants to see get over the line.

Ez Abde joined from Hercules at the end of the last transfer window and went into the Barcelona B squad, but he has recently been featuring in the first team and it may be the case that his contract is soon upgraded to reflect that promotion.

Gavi has been this season's revelation, with the 17-year-old midfielder impressing to such an extent he has already been capped by Spain.

It was pointed out to Xavi on Monday that Gavi is one of the lowest-paid players in the Barcelona squad. The teenager reportedly has a deal that runs until 2023, and Barcelona want to make it a longer-term arrangement.

"We must act to renew him. If necessary, we will put the money together. We cannot lose these players: Nico, Pedri, Ansu, Abde, [Ronald] Araujo. I understand that the club is already working, and it is essential for the team," Xavi said.

 

Barcelona sit seventh in LaLiga as they prepare to tackle Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla side who are second, six points behind Real Madrid but with a game in hand.

There is the chance for Barcelona to climb to fourth – a Champions League place – with victory at the Sanchez Pizjuan, and Xavi said: "It is a huge opportunity."

The Blaugrana have taken 10 points from a possible 15 since Xavi became coach, stepping in after Ronald Koeman's tenure finally ended.

"It's not bad," he said of that points haul. "Sevilla have done very well. For me, they are an example to follow. Their philosophy and idea of ​​a club, their coach. They are role models.

"Sevilla are direct rivals. I think we are in a good moment. We are happy, I think we understand what we want."

Xavi reasonably felt his team should have done better than post a narrow 3-2 win over Elche on Saturday, given their overwhelming dominance of that game, and he says there is no room for error at this stage of the season.

"Tomorrow is another final and we will go there to win," he said.

"Our game model is to be daring, but Sevilla also want to do that. It will be an extraordinary match."

Carlo Ancelotti said Barcelona were not direct rivals to his Real Madrid team at present, when he spoke last week, and although there was plenty of logic behind that remark, Xavi's team could yet be a factor over the second half of the season.

"We are 16 points behind and that is a huge difference," said Xavi. "We don't rule out anything."

But Xavi concedes Sevilla are in an excellent position, with their weekend win over last season's champions Atletico Madrid confirming that.

Asked whether Sevilla could be champions this season, Xavi said: "Yes, it's clear. They were already a candidate last year.

"If they win tomorrow, they are three points behind the leaders in the middle of the season. Sevilla are a reality. 

"When you see how Lopetegui works, how [sporting director] Monchi works, for me they are an example to follow. They are candidates to win any competition they take part in."

Julen Lopetegui believes Barcelona finally have a clear vision for their future as his Sevilla side attempt to inflict one final blow of a terrible year for the struggling giants.

It has been a woefully grim 2021 for Barcelona, with the club having encountered dire financial problems that were a factor behind their greatest player, Lionel Messi, being forced to leave.

On the field, they won the Copa del Rey in April but have endured a torrid time in the Champions League and LaLiga, with another club legend, Ronald Koeman, losing his job as coach as a result.

The COVID-19 crisis has hit Barcelona hard, but out of the chaos of the last 12 months has risen an emerging group of young players who could save the club a fortune in transfer fees and point to a bright future on the pitch.

The likes of Pedro, Gavi, Ez Abde and Nico Gonzalez have come to the fore, at a time when Barcelona cannot rush to the cheque book to solve their problems.

With Xavi returning to the club as head coach, there are grounds for optimism again at Barcelona. Yet results continue to be mixed, and the perennial LaLiga title challengers are nowhere near that battle this time around as they head into their final game of the calendar year.

They travel to face a Sevilla side who sit second and are six points behind leaders Real Madrid with a game in hand.

Former Spain and Madrid boss Lopetegui would love his team to head into the winter break on a high, with this season one where they may not have to worry unduly about Barcelona entering the title race.

That could change if seventh-placed Barca win on Tuesday and shrink their deficit to Sevilla down to seven points, and Lopetegui has seen enough of Xavi's work-in-progress team to be wary of their threat.

Yet a 2-1 win at the weekend against last season's champions Atletico Madrid means Sevilla are on a high.

 

Lopetegui said in Monday's pre-game news conference: "Very recently we were playing one tough game and now another that is even tougher awaits us.

"We will measure ourselves against one of the best Barcelona [teams] for a long time.

"They have improved a lot, with players that you'd struggle to see at other teams, young but very good. They have got players back such as [Ousmane] Dembele, so we're expecting them to be very strong and with the influence of Xavi.

"We'll try to be fully recovered and prepare well, today we trained with 13 first-team players so we'll have to wait until tomorrow to make our final decisions."

Sevilla and Barcelona have both scored 28 goals in LaLiga this season, but the leakier defence has been that of the Catalan giants, shipping 21 in 17 games compared to Sevilla's league-best 12 conceded. Curiously, Barcelona have made just one error that has led to a goal, while Sevilla have made four.

These teams have scored their goals in strikingly different manners, with Sevilla having an even split between right-footed and left-footed goals among their haul – 11 of each – while Barcelona have scored just three left-footed goals and 20 right-footed, a sure sign that the Messi era has passed.

There has also been a major disparity between the finishing of each team. Barcelona have an expected goals (xG) score of 31.06 in LaLiga, but have fallen short of matching that, while Sevilla have impressively outperformed their xG total of 22.34 to stay on Madrid's coat-tails.

 

These teams like to have the ball, so something must give on Tuesday.

Barcelona have had 65.02 per cent of possession across their games this season, while Sevilla have had the ball 60.39 per cent of the time.

Injuries might be biting, but this is no time for searching for excuses, with Lopetegui insisting Barcelona's 3-2 win over Elche on Saturday did not fairly reflect the dominance of Xavi's team. Barcelona led the shot count 19-5 in that game, were 2.8 to 1 ahead on xG, and had 73.4 per cent of possession.

Lopetegui said: "You can see what Barcelona are looking for and they have the right players for that. They want the ball, they want width. They've got young, capable players, some of them start for Spain, while they've got top-class, experienced players. They have a lot of width, they're good at one-on-one situations, etc. Between the two areas we're going to have to do a lot of things right."

Xavi described midfielder Gavi as "the future of Barcelona" after his performance in Saturday's 3-2 LaLiga win over Elche.

The Catalans claimed just their third win since Xavi took over as head coach, although they were made to work for the result at Camp Nou.

A dominant first half saw them go into the break 2-0 ahead, with Ferran Jutgla heading in the opener before Gavi opened his Barca account with a stunning solo run and finish.

The 17-year-old became the youngest player to score in LaLiga this season, overtaking Real Madrid's 18-year-old Eduardo Camavinga, and the third-youngest for Barca in Spain's top flight this century.

Elche produced a stirring comeback in the second half as Tele Morente and Pere Milla scored within the space of a minute, ending a 43-year wait for a goal against the Blaugrana in the competition.

It took a superb finish from substitute Nico Gonzalez to secure all three points and move Barca to within three points of the top four.

Gavi's performance was a highlight, though, the midfielder completing all 35 of his first-half passes and producing the key assist for Nico's winner in the closing minutes.

 

Xavi said of the rising star: "It's amazing to have him, how he competes, what he creates, the goal, the assist. He's spectacular, he's the future of this club.

"Gavi is excited by the way he plays and competes, and that's priceless for a coach."

Before the game, Xavi had suggested some of his players had shown a worrying lack of understanding of positional play, and he felt that was on show during the contest.

Indeed, the former Barca midfielder felt they should have been smarter without the ball when it came to stopping Elche's rare attacks.

"Positional play isn't working and that continues to surprise me," he said. "Elche's goal is a huge mistake from us. We can't progress in this way; we could have made three fouls.

"It's a shame, but we're playing with youngsters who are the ones that make the difference.

"It was like a final. It was a game that we complicated for ourselves. They survived because of our mistakes and that can't be. A game you have under control can't be like that. We have to learn and have more responsibility.

"We have to learn and that's the only way to win."

However, on the importance of the result, he added to Barca TV: "For us, for how we are, these are three golden points.

"Being positive, we played an excellent first half, we were able to score more goals. We understood the spaces well, the wide players were two daggers, the defensive line was really good."

Barcelona head coach Xavi has claimed it is "strange" that some of his players "do not understand" the style of play he is attempting to impose.

Appointed to arrest the team's decline under predecessor Ronald Koeman, the former midfield star has struggled to reverse the problems at Camp Nou in terms of performances and results.

Barca have won just two of six games since Xavi's return to the club, while a goalless draw with Benfica and a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich saw them fail to progress to the Champions League last 16 for the first time in 20 years.

Ahead of Saturday's game with Elche, the Catalans are eighth in LaLiga, 18 points behind leaders Real Madrid and five adrift of the top four.

Xavi has suggested part of the problem lies in his players' inability to grasp 'juego de posicion', a structured approach to play with and without the ball in which the former Spain international thrived.

However, he is refusing to give up on Barca's ambitions this season, telling reporters: "I have a lot of faith in my players, although the results are not following. We have to believe in the process.

"We're Barca and we have to compete against any opponent, regardless of injuries. We can't make excuses.

"The objective is to be in the top four and to win trophies, although the gap to the leaders is very big. We don't rule anything out.

"We need to understand the way we want to play football. It's strange there are Barca players who don't understand juego de posicion.

"This is about winning, and we're eighth in the table. We have to be positive and brave: press high, press after losing the ball, attack spaces... this is what we want."

 

Barca's well-documented financial problems leave them in a precarious position when it comes to bolstering the squad in the transfer window.

Indeed, amid reports president Joan Laporta had met with agent Mino Raiola to discuss the prospect of signing Erling Haaland next year, LaLiga boss Javier Tebas expressed his doubt that Barca would be able to afford the Borussia Dortmund star.

However, Xavi insisted Tebas would be as happy as anyone to see a talent of Haaland's pedigree move to Spain's top flight.

"In these moments we have a difficult economic situation, and you have to think that it's not going to be easy. We have a salary cap," Xavi said.

"In terms of names, we haven't spoken of that possibility. It would interest [Tebas] for players like Haaland to be here for the good of the league."

It has been suggested Barca could look to offload Ousmane Dembele to fund January arrivals, but Xavi appeared keen to keep the winger, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

"I spoke with him yesterday. I'm positive. He wants to continue. I can't say more; it's a matter of reaching an agreement.

"He already knows the importance he'll have if he stays with us. He looks good, he's playing more and more. He's a footballer capable of making a difference."

Xavi hailed "sensational" Dani Alves and tipped the full-back to have a big impact at Barcelona after making his second debut for the club on Tuesday.

Alves returned to Camp Nou on a free transfer last month following his departure from Sao Paulo in September over a contractual dispute.

The 38-year-old, who played 391 times for Barca in his first spell with the club, cannot be officially registered for the Catalan giants until the January transfer window.

However, the Brazil international was able to pull on the Blaugrana strip in Barca's exhibition friendly with Boca Juniors and played a full part in Saudi Arabia.

Alves impressed in the first half in particular but could not help his side overcome Argentine giants Boca, who went on to win the penalty shoot-out 4-2 after a 1-1 draw.

Xavi may not be able to call upon Alves competitively for another few weeks, but the recently appointed Barca boss is glad to have the veteran defender in his squad.

"His second debut is very positive for the team," Xavi said after the Maradona Cup match. "Everyone has seen he will help us a lot. He is a sensational player. 

"He's a team player and has a lot of character and soul. He will do very well for us.

"He has shown what he can contribute both in defence and attack. He plays with a lot of intensity and his final pass makes a difference."

 

Questions were raised regarding the timing of the game, which was held in memory of the late Diego Maradona, who represented both clubs during his legendary playing career.

But Xavi felt it was a good opportunity to give certain fringe players a run-out, with Philippe Coutinho among those to feature from the beginning.

"Those who have played less, like Neto or Riqui Puig, performed at a very good level, as did all the youngsters," Xavi said.

"The conclusions I take from this game are positive. We lost on penalties but are happy. Losing on penalties is the least important thing – getting minutes is what matters."

Ferran Jutgla gave a much-changed Barca side the lead at King Saud University Stadium, but Exequiel Zeballos struck 13 minutes from time to take the game to penalties.

Xavi's side now turn their focus back to LaLiga matters with a home match against Elche on Saturday, before travelling to Sevilla three days later for their final game of a testing year.

Barca have been linked with Erling Haaland as they prepare for 2022 after the Borussia Dortmund striker's agent reportedly met with club president Joan Laporta.

Given the LaLiga side's well-publicised financial issues, however, a move for the in-demand Norway international seems highly unlikely next year.

"These are all hypotheses," Xavi said when asked about the recent transfer speculation. "We will see, because we depend a lot on the salary limit and on financial fair play.

"We are not in our best moment but we will try to strengthen the team and the reinforcement of Dani will also go very well for us. In all markets we would like to strengthen."

Dani Alves is ready to begin "the most important challenge" of his career when he makes his second debut for Barcelona in Tuesday's exhibition match with Boca Juniors.

The 38-year-old re-joined the club on a free transfer last month following his departure from Sao Paulo in September over a contractual dispute.

Alves, who played 391 times for Barca in his first trophy-laden spell at Camp Nou, cannot be officially registered for the Catalan giants until the January transfer window opens.

However, the Brazil international is in line to represent Blaugrana on Tuesday when they face Argentine giants Boca Juniors in the Maradona Cup in Riyadh.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference on the eve of the friendly, Alves said: "I'm feeling nervous after not being able to play and represent the club for so long.

"The most important challenge of my career has come, because of how the situation happened and the position the club is in.

"But challenges are for those who do not fear them. We will all do our best for this club and for this badge."

 

Alves won 23 trophies in eight seasons with Barca before departing in 2016 for spells with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Sao Paulo, where he spent two years.

The club the veteran full-back has returned to five years on is a long way off competing for major honours. 

Barca exited the Champions League at the group stage last week and are eighth in LaLiga after 16 matches, but Alves is hopeful he can help the Catalans return to the top.

"We're used to seeing Barcelona at the top but we know there's a problem," he said. "We cannot hide from it, but instead look for a solution as soon as possible.

"When I arrived the first time a transformation had to be made. The situation is different but it's done and we will write a new chapter to get Barca where they are used to. 

"We have to recover the winning feeling because we live for winning. We have to change the streak. In football, there are good and bad streaks, though this is lasting a bit longer."

Barca have named a 28-man group for the meeting against Boca, with Alves joined by the likes of Gerard Pique, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho and other first-team stars.

The timing of the game, with league matches against Elche and Sevilla to come over the next eight days, has raised questions.

But while Xavi accepts the distance travelled is not ideal, he believes it is important to respect Maradona, who died from a heart attack aged 60 last November.

"These are club circumstances and is something that was previously agreed," he told reporters in Saudi Arabia. "For us it's an honour to be here representing Barcelona.

"We are paying homage to one of the best players in history. It's an honour and a privilege and it will be an emotional occasion."

Hinting at changes to the side that started the 2-2 draw with Osasuna on Sunday, Xavi added: "It will be a test for the players that don't usually play and a chance to see players that haven't played so much. We want to be at our best."

Barcelona head coach Xavi has told the club what he wants from the January transfer window and is optimistic that signings will arrive next month.

The Catalan giants crashed out of the Champions League group stage for the first time in 21 years on Wednesday after a 3-0 defeat at Bayern Munich, adding another dark day to a tumultuous period in the club's history.

Barca sit seventh in LaLiga ahead of a trip to Osasuna on Sunday, 16 points behind leaders Real Madrid, and at a media conference ahead of that game, Xavi was asked about plans for the January transfer window, with plenty of rumours circulating that the club will look to sign players, despite well-documented financial issues.

"We are working hard on this, that's the reality," the former Barca and Spain midfielder told reporters. "The team always needs to improve and we maybe need to use the winter market to capitalise on an opportunity.

"There's very good communication between the club and the staff, we had a very productive conversation. I was very clear in what I believe and what I want, and based on that we're going to work to our maximum capabilities.

"We have financial restraints, but we need to find solutions to improve the team and be more competitive."

Xavi was also asked about the mood in the camp after the loss in Munich.

"Of course I'm concerned," he said. "I think we need to improve the team morale. Tomorrow is another opportunity for that, to continue to grow. We need to continue to work with the players we have, and above all get the three points.

"I think there are areas where we've improved a lot, the high press, keeping a high line but against Bayern we saw a lesser Barca. Bayern outmatched us.

"We're working on it, and I already said in Munich that we need to put Barca back where we belong, which is to be a team that competes with the likes of Bayern."

Further reflecting on the situation, Xavi added: "We're not in the best moment in our history, that's obvious, but we need to recuperate the good vibes in the team, get good results, play well, and we do that through hard work."

The World Cup winner also indicated that the time is now for Barca to "reset", with this being the start of a new cycle.

"It seems like right now losses are almost taken as a given," he said. 

"We need more dedication, more professionalism, something that we simply cannot be lacking here. We need to be more demanding in the training sessions, braver, more excitement, more joy, because we have a feeling that a cycle has finished and a new Barca is starting."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta called for unity after the embattled club were dumped out of the Champions League.

Barca were consigned to the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time since 2003-04 on Wednesday, outclassed 3-0 by Group E winners Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena.

Xavi's Barca needed to win or hope Benfica failed to beat Dynamo Kiev elsewhere in the final round of group fixtures in order to avoid elimination, but the struggling LaLiga giants were no match for Bayern, who were led by goals from Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala.

It is the fourth time Barcelona have been eliminated in the Champions League group stage after 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2000-01, and the second time that they have fallen to the secondary European competition from the Champions League group stage following 2000-2001 (then, to play the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Milan and Leeds United).

Barca are also seventh in LaLiga, 16 points off the pace as Laporta addressed the club's plight.

"We are sad about this result, but we have to move on. It is time to work hard and try to reverse this situation," Laporta told TV3.

"We have not been able to go down to the locker room to lift the players. We will speak with the coaching staff on the plane.

"We did what we could and now we have to try to overcome this situation.

"I make a call to all the Barcelona fans, today more than ever we have to row all together in the same direction to try to overcome this situation altogether."

Barca's tally of two goals after their six group-stage matches is their lowest recorded total in the Champions League, whilst only in 1997-98 (14) did they concede more goals at this stage than the nine they have shipped this season.

Xavi became second Barcelona head coach to fail to win in his first two Champions League games (D1 L1), after Louis Van Gaal in 1997 (D1 L1).

Barca boss Xavi added in a news conference: "This must be a turning point. I have told the players, today a new stage has to begin for Barca, revealing ourselves to this situation.

"We cannot accept this situation because Barcelona does not deserve to be where we are today. I tell the Barcelona fans that we will work hard because I feel this club, I love this club and we will work hard. We will leave our skin to [help] Barca recover and put them where they deserve, and that is not in the Europa League.

"But we have to face it, it is a hard reality but it is what there is. It is the reality and we have to face it and rebel and this has to serve as a turning point to improve."

Xavi was left angry and frustrated following Barcelona's elimination from the Champions League on Wednesday.

Barca's exit was confirmed after a comprehensive 3-0 defeat by runaway Group E winners Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

It means the Blaugrana will not appear in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time since the 2003-04 season, with Benfica's win over Dynamo Kiev sending them through as runners-up to Bayern.

Indeed, Barca only scored two goals in six matches and registered just seven points; their second-lowest total during a single group stage in the competition's history.

Nevertheless, Barca's continental adventure continues in February as they drop into the Europa League.

They would secure a return to the Champions League by going on to lift the trophy, which Xavi insists is a must for the club given their current scenario.

"I'm angry. This is the reality and it p***** me off," he told reporters.

"We have to tackle it face on. There's nothing else for it. A new era starts today. We start from zero.

"Barca's objective is the Champions League, not the Europa League. 

"But our reality now is the Europa League, and we have to win it."

Though their fate was sealed on Wednesday, defender Ronald Araujo accepts the damage was done in Barca's previous group games.

Disappointed by the plight of the Catalan giants, the Uruguay international knows he and his team-mates must strive to ensure that better times are around the corner.

"It's a damning result and they had chances to make it worse," Araujo said.

"Ultimately, we didn't fail to qualify because of this game, but because of what we did in the other games. 

"It's true that, right now, we're not among the best teams in Europe. If we were, we'd have qualified. 

"We have to keep on working and hope that good things will come for us soon."

Xavi believes Barcelona's supporters will be "proud" of their team despite a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Real Betis on Saturday.

After LaLiga wins over Espanyol and Villarreal and a Champions League draw against Benfica, the result marked Xavi's first defeat in charge of the Blaugrana since he took over from Ronald Koeman.

Barca's tally of 23 goals in LaLiga this term is their lowest at this stage since the 2003-04 campaign when they scored 19, while their points total of 23 is their lowest since the same season (20).

Xavi refused to be too downbeat, though, and believed his side deserved more from the game, which was ultimately won by Juanmi's breakaway goal with 11 minutes remaining.

"It is a shame because we did not deserve to lose," he told a media conference. "We did not have the luck we had against Villarreal today.

"We cannot allow a goal like the one we have conceded but it is a shame to have lost because we deserved to win.

"I think the fans will be proud of the team. We played a very good second half and Betis' goal came when we were at our best.

"Sometimes you have to know how to make tactical fouls and prevent the opponent playing and we did not do that.

"Their goal bothers me a lot because a situation like this cannot happen to us.

"I have told the players that this is football and that I am proud of them. They have given everything and if anyone deserved to win the game it was Barca."

Barca's attention now turns to a crucial Champions League clash against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The Catalan giants are second in Group E, just two points ahead of Benfica, and they know the only way of guaranteeing their progression to the knockout stages is victory at the Allianz Arena.

"On Wednesday we will have to compete like animals in Munich because we are at risk of not making into the last 16," he said.

"But we depend on ourselves. It's easy; if we win we're in the round of 16 and if Benfica don’t win we're through.

"We'll go with everything and play like we did in the second half today. We will see how far that takes us."

Xavi had his first taste of defeat as Barcelona boss with Juanmi securing Real Betis a famous 1-0 victory at Camp Nou on Saturday. 

Barca defeated Espanyol and Villarreal in their first two LaLiga matches under Xavi, which came either side of a goalless draw at home to Benfica in the Champions League. 

The lacked a serious attacking threat against Betis and were punished on the break by Juanmi with 11 minutes remaining. 

Ez Abde missed a glorious chance to salvage a point for the Blaugrana, who could find themselves seven points adrift of the top four and 16 off top spot if Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid win later in the day. 

Philippe Coutinho sent a tame effort from Jordi Alba's cross towards the near post in the 11th minute and Rui Silva held it at the second attempt. 

Gavi had to go off after the ball was kicked against his head by Hector Bellerin, meaning his status for the crunch Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in midweek could now be in doubt. 

After Juanmi had a goal disallowed for a narrow offside decision, Xavi sent Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele on with Barca toiling. 

Dembele was lively but could not find the target and Betis put them to the sword with a swift break that finished with Juanmi sliding home a pass from former Barca winger Cristian Tello. 

Barca pushed for a winner but Ez Abde blazed their best opportunity over from eight yards with 10 minutes remaining. 

Ronald Araujo was deemed to have fouled Andres Guardado despite appealing for a stoppage-time penalty, leaving Xavi to cope with the bitter taste of a first defeat.

Xavi claimed Ousmane Dembele could become the "best player in the world in his position" after Barcelona president Joan Laporta suggested the forward is better than Kylian Mbappe.

Dembele, who was a €105million signing from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou in January.

The France international will be free to discuss fresh terms with clubs next month if a new contract cannot be agreed with current club Barca.

Laporta revealed on Thursday that negotiations were going slower than expected with Dembele but assured the following day that the 24-year-old wanted to stay and told TV3 he believes the Barca forward was better than Mbappe.

"We have a very good relationship with Dembele and he wants to stay," Laporta said.

"We also want him to stay because he's a great player. These situations need negotiations with representatives who want the best for the player.

"I'm enthusiastic about Dembele. He's a better player than Mbappe."

Asked for an update on the Dembele situation, Xavi told reporters:  "What I know is that it is not only the economic issue.

"We have left him a very clear position. He is a very important player with great talent. I already said it, he can be the best player in the world in his position. It depends on him. 

"We think of him as a key figure in this project. If it is because of the sporting project, he is happy. We are going to be positive. It is not just an economic issue. He wanted to feel loved and this he will have."

Questions were then put forward as to whether Dembele would feature without signing a contract and Xavi responded: "It would not be the objective, if he has a contract I think he has to play. 

"You have to be positive. But on the other hand, I am very clear on that, if you have a contract you have to play, also because of the image of the club. I do not value that option; I do not contemplate it."

 

Club legend Xavi took the reins after Ronald Koeman's dismissal in late October and has triumphed in his opening two LaLiga games – only four Barca managers have ever won their first three in the competition in the 21st century.

The Catalan club sit seventh, 13 points off leaders Real Madrid ahead of facing Betis, who have won just one of 20 previous top-flight meetings with Barca.

Xavi's side then face Bayern Munich on Wednesday in a crucial Champions League clash that they are likely to have to win to qualify for the knockout stages, but the former midfielder insisted his focus was on Betis.

"I look no further," Xavi responded when asked about the week ahead. "Each game is vital. Tomorrow is also a final. We cannot lose points if we want to connect and fight for the league. 

"We will play with the best 11, with whom I think they can perform better due to the circumstances. The league will tell us where we are at the end of the season.

"It is an important week like the next one will also be. And in January. Barca is a daily requirement and every game. 

"Every week at Barca is vital. There is no rest until the holidays and more in this situation, we can't give anything away.

"Barca aspires to win everything and time will always tell where we got to. We are a team made to win, compete and the notes will say where we have competed."

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