Xavi targets second spot and titles next season

UEFA

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Barcelona earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Real Sociedad on Friday (AEST), and goes into Monday's (AEST) home contest with Rayo Vallecano 15 points behind league leader Real Madrid with just 18 points left to play for.

The Catalan giant's victory in the Basque Country, secured courtesy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's first-half header, kept it six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis as Xavi attempts to lead his team to UEFA Champions League qualification.

Xavi, however, recognises that improvements will be needed next season, acknowledging that while second place is the best Barcelona can hope for this term, "only winning" counts at Camp Nou.

"We are playing a lot, [qualification for] the Champions League and second place [are our targets]," he said ahead of the Rayo clash. "The league [title] is very difficult.

"We have dropped a little in terms of the game compared to a few weeks ago. If we recover, we will be closer to results. We must finish as high as possible, which realistically is second place.

"Since November in the league we've been fighting with Madrid. Next year we have to fight to win titles, here it is only worth winning. 

"Since November, we are one or two points behind Madrid, but they are up there on their own merits and so are we, we've gone from ninth to second [since Xavi replaced former boss Ronald Koeman]."

After suffering back-to-back home losses to Eintracht Frankfurt and Cadiz, Barcelona is looking to avoid losing three consecutive games at Camp Nou for just the second time in its history when it hosts Vallecano, having only previously done so under Louis van Gaal in 1998.

However, Xavi has undoubtedly made a positive impact since replacing Koeman at the helm, with the January arrivals of Ferran Torres and Aubameyang, LaLiga's top scorer in 2022 with nine goals, boosting Barca's hopes of finishing second.

Rumours have linked several big names, including Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, with summer moves to Camp Nou, but Xavi says the need for further additions must continue to be balanced with the club's finances.

"We are planning for next year, but we depend on the club's economy," he added. "Let's see what we can do, and people have to go out. You have to do good planning and the idea is to have two competitive players per position.

"We have to start planning but what most concerns us is day-to-day, staying as high as possible, but let's see what economic situation we are in."

Meanwhile, Xavi revealed Gerard Pique, who has made headlines after leaked audio messages highlighted his involvement in moving the Supercopa de Espana to Saudi Arabia, is a doubt for Monday's (AEST) clash after playing through injury on Friday (AEST).

"We are managing it as best we can," Xavi said of his former team-mate's injury.

"He has had discomfort for two or three months, but he endured 80 minutes [against Sociedad] in a spectacular way. We will see tomorrow, he has not been able to train today."


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