Barcelona director Mateu Alemany has confirmed holding talks with Antonio Rudiger's agent, but insists the Chelsea defender's future was not discussed during the meeting.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel revealed following Sunday's late win over West Ham that Rudiger intends to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Tuchel suggested that Rudiger's decision was influenced by the financial restrictions imposed on Chelsea while a new owner to succeed Roman Abramovich is being sought.

Barcelona are one of a number of teams to have been linked with the Germany international, along with fierce rivals Real Madrid, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Speaking ahead of Barca's home LaLiga clash with Rayo Vallecano later on Sunday, Alemany was probed about his side's reported interest in the centre-back.

"We had a meeting with his agent, but he also represents other players," Alemany told Movistar. 

"We didn't talk about his situation, but about many other things because his agent represents many players. It's the house rule not to talk about players from other clubs."

Barca have had to contend with financial limitation of their own, yet they were still able to sign Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Dani Alves and Adama Traore in January.

And the Catalan giants, who will end 2021-22 trophyless, are expected to be busy in the upcoming transfer window.

"We already have advanced ideas," Alemany said. "We will make a collective evaluation when the league ends or when our position is definitively set.

"Last summer was complicated as we were blocked at the 'fair play' level. Now we are satisfied with the coaching staff and we intend to make a leap in quality. 

"Our desire is to make a competitive team for next year."

Robert Lewandowski will not be sold by Bayern Munich at the end of this season, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has insisted. 

With his contract due to expire at the end of 2022-23, it had been reported that Bayern were open to selling Lewandowski to avoid losing him on a free transfer. 

Barcelona have been heavily linked with a move for the Poland international, who was on target in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund that clinched the Bavarian giants' 10th straight Bundesliga title. 

Salihamidzic simply replied "no" when quizzed on Sky90 about whether he would consider selling Lewandowski if an offer of €40-50million was received. 

Asked if that meant the 33-year-old striker would be staying at Allianz Arena, he responded: "Yes, he has a contract until 2023." 

Salihamidzic said contract negotiations with Lewandowski are set to begin but stressed the importance of Bayern sticking to their budget. 

"Of course [we want to keep him]. Lewandowski is highly appreciated. The fans love him. But he's our top earner at the club. We also have to look at our financial possibilities and how much money we have," he said. 

"I spoke with Lewa. We'll also talk to his agent. He has a contract until 2023. We have all the time in the world. We have the best striker in the world and we're proud of that. We haven't negotiated yet. But that's what we'll do now [that the title has been won]." 

Lewandowski has been involved in 53 goals (48 scored, five assisted) in all competitions this season – more than any other player in the top five European leagues. 

Arsenal's project under Mikel Arteta has taken positive steps this season, but the need for a striker remains.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette seemingly on the way out at the end of the season, that need could become even more pertinent.

If the Gunners achieve qualification for the Champions League however, Tammy Abraham's return to the Premier League could be on the cards.


TOP STORY – ARSENAL TO GO AFTER ABRAHAM

Arsenal are showing renewed interest in Tammy Abraham and are looking to bring him to the Emirates Stadium if they qualify for the Champions League, according to Star Sunday.

Mikel Arteta was very keen to sign the 24-year-old Abraham at the start of the season, before he left for Roma, who were able to guarantee a healthy salary and first-team football along with the chance to join Jose Mourinho.

Abraham has enjoyed a stellar first season in Serie A, contributing 15 goals and four assists in 33 league appearances.

While Chelsea can activate a buy-back clause at the end of the season, the Gunners would be willing to offer £50million (€59.5m) to secure Abraham's transfer.  


ROUND-UP

- West Ham have joined the race for Torino and Italy striker Andrea Belotti, whose contract expires at the end of the season, according to Fichajes.

- Real Madrid are in best position to sign German international Antonio Rudiger, who will leave Chelsea at the end of the season, Goal reports.

- Frenkie de Jong has been linked with a move to Manchester United, where he would reunite with incoming coach Erik ten Hag, per the Manchester Evening News.

- Ten Hag is also reportedly keen on signing Christian Eriksen, whose six-month deal with Brentford expires at the end of the season, according to Star Sunday.

Barcelona boss Xavi has highlighted the difficulties of competing for trophies after Lionel Messi's departure, but says the Catalan giants cannot afford to replicate the recent struggles of Manchester United.

The Blaugrana head into Sunday's match against Rayo Vallecano 15 points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid with just 18 points to play for, albeit the buffer to Real Betis in fourth is six.

After previous boss Ronald Koeman left the Catalan giants in ninth position, Xavi has overseen a revival of the team's fortunes and is looking to secure a top-four finish at the end of a transitional season for the club.

Although Xavi acknowledged Barcelona will need to be patient in their pursuit of trophies after losing legendary forward Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, he said the club cannot afford to miss out on Champions League football, highlighting the Red Devils as an example of a household name to have struggled to qualify for the competition.

"It's our reality. This is the post-[Lionel] Messi era, that's difficult in itself," Xavi told a news conference ahead of Sunday's clash with Rayo Vallecano. "He used to win games on his own. We have to be patient. I'm excited to win trophies, but we have to strengthen. We have to be realistic.

"We're in the first year of the post-Messi era, we have to be patient. We've seen a lot of great teams, like at Manchester United, [where] it's been hard for them to come back, to qualify for the Champions League. 

"Barca can't allow that. We have to fight for trophies, we want to compete."

Xavi's arrival has had a positive impact on the Camp Nou outfit, who had briefly threatened to challenge runaway leaders Madrid. 

Among the players to look rejuvenated under Xavi is Ousmane Dembele, whose nine league assists in 2022 place him level with former team-mate Messi as the most creative players in the top five European Leagues this calendar year.

Meanwhile, another of Xavi's trusted first-teamers, Frenkie de Jong, has been linked with a move to Old Trafford after his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag was confirmed to be taking over from Ralf Rangnick at the end of this season.

Xavi, however, is desperate to keep hold of the midfielder "for many years", saying he has the talent to "mark an era" at Camp Nou.

"Frenkie is very important for me, for the club and for the team," Xavi added. "He is a footballer who has to mark an era, for his quality and personality.

"He is at a very good level since I arrived, and he has to continue scoring goals, [making] assists ... and being a protagonist in the games. He could be one of the best midfielders in the world in the coming years. 

"We have not commented on it [De Jong's future], but if it is up to me, he would continue for many years."

Xavi said his Barcelona team must fight for titles next season, as he acknowledged second place was the highest finish realistically available to them in LaLiga this term.

Barcelona earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Real Sociedad on Thursday, and go into Sunday's home contest with Rayo Vallecano 15 points behind league leaders Real Madrid with just 18 points left to play for.

The Catalan giants' victory in the Basque Country, secured courtesy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's first-half header, kept them six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis as Xavi attempts to lead his team to 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 told reporters at a news conference on Saturday. "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 are looking to avoid losing three consecutive games at Camp Nou for just the second time in their history when they host 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 their 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 Sunday's clash after playing through injury on Thursday.  

"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."

Dani Alves says Real Madrid are lucky they already hold a double-digit margin atop LaLiga following Barcelona's 1-0 win away to Real Sociedad on Thursday.

Barca have lost only two LaLiga games since Xavi took over from Ronald Koeman but they have been playing an almost impossible game of catch up, winning only four of the opening 12 games and allowing Real Madrid to streak ahead.

Madrid are 15 points up on second-placed Barcelona, who have a game in hand, but even with six games to go for the latter the title race is effectively over.

Claiming eight of their last 10 domestic games, including a 4-0 demolition of the soon-to-be champions at the Santiago Bernabeu, the 38-year-old believes Real Madrid are fortunate Barcelona did not get their act together earlier.

"Lucky for them [Real Madrid] we haven't arrived earlier," Alves told Movistar+ post-match. "We always plan to compete differently but in the end, life is like that. We arrived late and had to make a tremendous effort to take the advantage over them.

"We already knew it was very difficult due to the state of the rival and the situation, but I insist, lucky for them that we have not arrived earlier."

The Anoeta had been a traditionally tricky venue for Barcelona, but they have now not lost there in LaLiga since renovations on the stadium were completed in 2019.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goal in the 11th minute ultimately proved the difference, but the Brazilian defender believes claiming the three points from San Sebastian was not a simple task.

"We knew it was going to be difficult, because it's always very difficult here," Alves said. "The stadium is very tight, we controlled a little more in the first half and then we lowered the intensity but you have to know how to suffer. In football it's hard to win, but you win.

"We wanted to balance the team a little more and the goal came and decided the game. You have to know how to suffer to win games."

Barcelona's victory over Real Sociedad at Reale Arena on Thursday was "crucial for the future of the club", according to coach Xavi. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal of the game as Barca defeated La Real 1-0, moving up to second in LaLiga increasing their advantage over fifth-placed Real Betis to six points. 

It was the Blaugrana's only attempt on target across the entire game and they had 44.3 per cent possession – their second-lowest amount since 2005-06 – with poor finishing from Alexander Sorloth and Alexander Isak letting the visitors off the hook. 

Barca are now unbeaten in their past 13 LaLiga away games, which is their best such run since April 2019. 

Xavi was pleased with the fact their win came against a top-four rival, even if their performance was far from what he would have wanted. 

"I am satisfied with the three points. They are vital and crucial for the future to the team and the club. It's a golden victory," Xavi said. 

"But I'm not satisfied with the game. The first half, yes, but in the second half we suffered. We have to be honest and self-critical. We haven't been good. 

"We have to improve. This is not the way. It's not been our ideal game. These are three crucial points against a direct rival for the Champions League. 

"It's the game in which I've suffered the most, along with the one against Villarreal. We noticed the fatigue." 

Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba played on after appearing to sustain muscle injuries and signal for substitutions, while Ronald Araujo was withdrawn with a knee problem and Dani Alves also appeared to struggling with an issue. 

"Jordi, Ronald, Pique – we are suffering a lot. There's a lot of fatigue because the calendar is demanding," said Xavi. 

"It's not that we don't train well, it's the way the game is played. And the calendar is demanding. But the effort is spectacular. 

"[Pique] has been playing with discomfort for two or three months … at 35 years old, he is in shape. It's vital." 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on target again as Barcelona scored an important 1-0 victory over top-four rivals Real Sociedad in LaLiga on Thursday. 

A close-range header in the first half was Aubameyang's 11th goal in his past 14 games for Barca – as many as he scored in his 34 prior outings in all competitions. 

It proved to be enough to end La Real's seven-game unbeaten league run at Reale Arena, with Alexander Isak and Alexander Sorloth wasting the opportunities that came their way. 

Barca moved up to second while La Real were left six points adrift of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid with five games to play, casting doubt on their credentials for achieving Champions League qualification. 

La Real conceded their first goal at home in eight league matches in the 11th minute. Gavi kept the ball alive after Ousmane Dembele hit the post and picked out Ferran Torres, who lifted a cross for Aubameyang to nod home. 

Frenkie de Jong, Torres and Aubameyang all narrowly missed the target before Isak miscued when presented with a glorious chance to equalise on the stroke of half-time. 

Barca were again let off the hook within two minutes of the restart when Sorloth blazed over from inside the six-yard box after a wonderful delivery from Adnan Januzaj. 

There was a brief interruption due to objects being thrown in the direction of Gerard Pique from the stands, with the centre-back the subject of their ire after controversial audio clips of him negotiating a deal to move the Supercopa de Espana to Saudi Arabia were released. 

Pique played on after appearing to request a substitution in the first half but Barca lost Ronald Araujo to a knee injury in the 55th minute. 

Sorloth and Januzaj were kept at bay by Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Gavi missed a chance to put the game to bed, but Xavi's team were able to hold on for an important three points. 

What does it mean? Barca back on track 

Barca followed Europa League elimination at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt with a loss to Cadiz last weekend, but they got back to winning ways in San Sebastian. 

The Blaugrana are now undefeated in 12 LaLiga matches against La Real, while coach Imanol Alguacil has now faced them eight times without recording a win – he has not overseen more games without winning against any other opponent in the competition. 

De Jong pulls the strings

Barca's best moments came when they attacked at pace, and De Jong was key to ensuring they moved the ball quickly. No one on the pitch had more than his three key passes, while he also had the joint-most attempts on goal for the Blaugrana. 

One mix-up proves costly 

Joseba Zaldua and Mikel Merino were well-positioned to clear the ball after Dembele hit the post, but they hesitated and Gavi nipped in and fed Torres for the assist on the only goal of the game. 

What's next? 

Barca entertain Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, with La Real not in action until a meeting with the same side a week later. 

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus could now face sanctions from UEFA after precautionary measures against such punishments were lifted by a Madrid court.

Madrid, Barca and Juve are the three clubs still committed to the European Super League project, which was launched last year and sought to break away from UEFA's Champions League.

Nine other clubs, including six from the Premier League, backed out of the competition soon after it was announced amid fan pressure.

UEFA was initially prevented from sanctioning those involved, but these measures have now been lifted by judge Sofia Gil Garcia of Madrid's Mercantile Court No. 17.

"It is up to these disciplinary bodies and to the independent arbitrators of the CAS to decide on the possible sanctions against the clubs," the court said via a statement reported in French publication L'Equipe.

A UEFA spokesperson said: "UEFA has today received the order of the Madrid court, lifting the precautionary measures in their entirety.

"UEFA welcomes this decision and is considering its implications. UEFA will not be making any further comment for the time being."

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.

Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has rejected claims of wrongdoing after reports that Gerard Pique asked him to intervene in the selection of Spain's squad for the Tokyo Olympics.

A series of conversations between Rubiales and Pique have been leaked by Spanish publication El Confidencial in recent days, focusing on Pique's involvement in moving the Supercopa de Espana to Saudi Arabia.

New leaks, however, appear to show Pique asking Rubiales to ensure he was picked for the delayed 2020 Olympic Games, at which he wished to make his Spain return after retiring from international football in 2018.

Pique is allegedly heard telling Rubiales in one audio message: "You have to do this for me Rubi, you have to get it for me," referencing a spot in the Olympic squad coached by Spain U21 boss Luis de la Fuente. The Barcelona centre-back is also have said to have hit out at Sergio Ramos' more public request to be involved.

At a news conference held on Wednesday, however, Rubiales denied the messages exposed any wrongdoing from himself or Pique, saying it was "normal" for players, with many of whom he is close, to make such requests.

"Maybe another one [player] appears who asked me to, and it's not Pique. I'm going to keep talking to them like that. I have a conversation with someone I've known for years and I speak as I speak," Rubiales said.

"There were more [players] who asked me. He [Pique] announced a long time ago that he did not want to return, and I spoke with Luis de la Fuente so that he would know who had called me. 

"It is common when one is a great player and he wants to come back [to the national team]. Then Luis made a very different decision. We act with the utmost honesty. He is not the only footballer who has asked me to do so."

Pique, along with Ramos, was ultimately left out of the squad, with Spain earning the silver medal after a 2-1 extra-time defeat to Brazil in the final.

Meanwhile, attention has also been drawn to the new four-team format introduced for the Supercopa since it moved to Saudi Arabia, with Rubiales' federation accused of being motivated by a financial need for giants Real Madrid and Barca to remain involved.

Rubiales admitted that the likelihood of those two clubs being involved did result in greater revenue being generated through TV rights sales, but denied that this amounted to any sort of favouritism.

"We sell the TV rights to the final all over the world. There are some countries that wait to bid when they are the finalists," Rubiales added. "If there is a derby or Clasico, the offer multiplies a lot. 

"That adds to the management and would affect the variable. [But] we have no idea who is going to play in the final."

Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has refuted claims of wrongdoing amid controversy surrounding the Supercopa de Espana.

Messages and phone calls between Rubiales and Barcelona stalwart Gerard Pique have been leaked to the media.

The audio recordings revealed Pique helped negotiate a €24million commission when the Supercopa was expanded to four teams and moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020.

It was a deal reportedly worth €40m to the RFEF for every tournament played in the middle-eastern state.

Spanish publication El Confidencial, which released the audio on Monday, claimed Pique's Kosmos group, a sports entertainment company founded in 2017, would benefit to the tune of €4m per tournament over the six-year agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Pique insisted he had done no wrong, telling a Twitch stream: "I have nothing to hide, everything we have done is legal."

On Wednesday, Rubiales gave a news conference to address the issue and hit out at the people who hacked the RFEF communications, calling them "gangsters" and suggesting more than one person or group was involved in the hacking as he denied charging any commission.

"I qualify as a gangster whoever has used that information for a spurious interest. I know who benefits," Rubiales said.

"I do not charge commissions. How would you be if the information about your life was stolen, private conversations? I qualify this as a mafia. I don't think this can be achieved by one person."

Explaining how the switch to Saudi Arabia came about, Rubiales said: "Kosmos proposed a change of format for the Supercopa. They started to work on it.

"We spoke to Saudi Arabia, the US, China, countries in Africa and other countries. It was clear that their financial relationship would not be with the RFEF, but with Saudi Arabia."

Rubiales also insisted there was no conflict of interest "because there is no economic relationship with Kosmos".

He suggested the hackers could go as far as to plant evidence of wrongdoing against him and added: "There are several complaints. We have suffered several attacks. Here are some criminals who are trying to damage my image [and the] RFEF.

"We are going to collaborate with the police, and it is under investigation."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has appeared to blame groups of Barcelona fans for an estimated 30,000 Eintracht Frankfurt fans gaining entry to the clubs' Europa League tie last week.

The second leg of their quarter-final clash saw Frankfurt record a famous 3-2 win after storming into a three-goal lead, as Barcelona were eliminated before swathes of German fans at Camp Nou.

An estimated 30,000 travelling fans gained entry to the stadium despite the Bundesliga club only officially receiving 5,000 tickets for the fixture, leading Laporta to claim he was "ashamed" of the club's handling of the situation last week.

The incident led to a number of Blaugrana fans boycotting their 1-0 loss to Cadiz on Monday, as the Catalan giants suffered back-to-back home defeats for the first time since April 2003, with some protesting against Laporta prior to kick-off.

The Blaugrana chief, however, has blamed club members for the overwhelming Frankfurt presence, accusing them of selling their tickets to German fans.  

"The club is not to blame for what happened against Eintracht, but it is responsible," Lapota said on Tuesday, speaking at a news conference called to explain the incident. 

"A group of members misused their season tickets, which they ceded to German fans.

"It is sad because we love this club, and it is hard to imagine season ticket holders giving their tickets to rival fans. But this happened, and it will be subject to analysis.

"There are around 7,000 members that purchased tickets with discount codes and [those tickets] ended up in German hands. We don't want it to become a witch hunt, but there is a lot of disappointment and we will look into possibly taking action.

"We didn't sell tickets to German fans beyond the 5,000 away tickets. Sales from Germany weren't allowed, and there were many people trying to buy tickets from there. The system of control worked up to a point, but some organised groups were able to breach the mechanisms in place.

"We inherited the system from the previous board. We thought it could work, but we have seen that for special games it doesn't.

"Tickets will now be non-transferrable for non-domestic matches and high-risk games. We are working on other measures so that it does not happen again."

Laporta did, however, admit that the club did not handle the situation perfectly, and was thankful to have avoided more serious consequences.

"I am sure we could have done better," he added. "It concerned us to see so many German fans arriving at the ground, but if we impeded them from entering, we would be talking about more serious incidents."

Under 58,000 Barcelona fans turned out to see Xavi's side fall to a demoralising defeat to Cadiz on Monday, one of their lowest attendances since the legendary midfielder returned as head coach.

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."

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