Barcelona looks for a fresh start in 1st game since Xavi's decision to leave at end of the season

Tue, Jan 30, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Barcelona looks for a fresh start in 1st game since Xavi's decision to leave at end of the season

MADRID (AP) - Xavi Hernandez wants a fresh start for Barcelona in its first match since the coach announced his decision to leave at the end of the season.

Barcelona hosts Osasuna in the Spanish league on Wednesday in a game postponed from earlier this year because of the Spanish Super Cup that was played in Saudi Arabia. Atletico Madrid also plays its postponed match on Wednesday, hosting Rayo Vallecano. Real Madrid - the Super Cup champion - visits Getafe on Thursday.

"It's not an easy time but Barca and the fans need to be united," Xavi said Tuesday. "I would like to highlight the reaction of the fans and the locker room following my announcement. The shows of affection I have received have been amazing. My announcement was designed to help the team grow so that we can all take a step forward."

Xavi announced his decision to leave shortly after the team's 5-3 home loss to Villareal on Saturday in the league. He said he hoped the announcement would lower the stress and tension that was surrounding both the team and himself.

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta said he would stick with Xavi this season because he was a club great and was confident that the coach would remain committed despite deciding to leave.

"The reaction of the players should be what it needs to be on the field because we depend on them becoming inspired," Xavi said. "There is a lot at stake, do our best in the league and compete in the Champions League. I am still excited, I feel free. I will give a bit extra to make it work."

The loss to Villarreal left Barcelona in fourth place, 11 points behind league leader Girona and 10 points from second-place Madrid.

The Catalan club had already been eliminated by Athletic Bilbao in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey and lost 4-1 to Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

Osasuna, which also played in the Super Cup and lost to Barcelona in the semifinals, has won two of its last three league games. It's 12th in the standings.

ATLETICO'S HOME RUN

Third-place Atletico will try to extend its unbeaten run at home to 28 matches in all competitions when it hosts Rayo.

Atletico's last home defeat was against Barcelona in January last year in the Spanish league. Diego Simeone's team has only two draws during this streak, which tied its previous run of 27 unbeaten home matches from 2019-2021.

Rayo, which is 13th, is winless in four straight games in all competitions.

MADRID EYES TOP SPOT

Madrid can retake the Spanish league lead if it wins at midtable Getafe on Thursday.

Unbeaten in 24 consecutive matches across all tournaments, Madrid has won five games in a row in the league.

Getafe is coming off a win at Granada after three straight league matches without a win.

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