Barcelona boss Xavi says "not much is going to change" following Gerard Pique's retirement, with the Blaugrana squad prepared to play their part in filling the void left behind by the defender.

The veteran centre-back abruptly announced his retirement from the professional game last week, before bowing out on a winning note with a 2-0 victory in LaLiga over Almeria.

Pique departed in the 84th minute to a standing ovation, bringing the curtain down on a near-decade-and-a-half stay with the club, where he originally began as a junior before moving to Manchester United.

Asked how Barca intended to alter their side following his exit, Xavi was adamant there would be little difference within the team, noting they will pull together to counter his absence.

"Not much is going to change," he stated. "Everyone has their leading role in the team.

"We're going to miss Gerard but [the departure of long-term players] has always happened. When somebody has left, the rest have been relocated."

Elsewhere, Xavi further touched on the form of Raphinha and Ousmane Dembele, two wingers with contrasting fortunes this term at Camp Nou.

The Brazilian, signed from Leeds United ahead of the campaign, has yielded only one goal in a dozen LaLiga appearances, while the Frenchman looks to have rediscovered his form with four in 13 top-flight games, along with five assists.

On Raphinha, Xavi added: "He has total confidence on our part. Sometimes things don't turn out the way you want, but you have to keep working. We believe in him a lot, and I'm sure the goals will come.

"As for Dembele, he's making a difference. His numbers have changed. He is being important, and he is feeling that way too.

"He is happy, and he has grown a lot. He lacks consistency, but because of his talent and skill, he has everything to be the best in the world."

Xavi said Barcelona had been handed the toughest possible draw after they were paired with Manchester United in the Europa League's knockout round play-offs.

Barca will compete in the Europa League after the turn of the year as a result of their failure to advance from a Champions League group containing Bayern Munich and Inter.

The Blaugrana have now suffered successive group-stage eliminations from the Champions League for just the second time, having also done so under Louis van Gaal in the 1997-98 and 1998-99 campaigns.

Barca were beaten by eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the last eight of the Europa League last term, and Xavi said they had been unfortunate once again following Monday's draw. 

"We will have to compete, going to Manchester against a really tough rival," Xavi said ahead of Tuesday's trip to Osasuna in LaLiga.

"It's a historic rival that has grown a lot with the arrival of Erik ten Hag, with great individual players. We have been given the most difficult rival, yet again, in the Europa League.

"There is always a rival who also has the obligation to win, like ourselves. To compete, we have to analyse Manchester. We will try, this club has never won the Europa League.

"It's a massive challenge for us, our players will probably be more motivated against a strong team."

Barca's next European tie will see them reunited with their old foe Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 20 goals in 34 games against the Blaugrana, netting against them in LaLiga (nine), the Champions League (two), the Copa del Rey (five) and the Supercopa de Espana (four).

Xavi refuted suggestions the United striker is in decline despite his struggles this season, adding: "He seems to me to be a great player who has marked an era, and he can still make a difference.

"I like to win, I hate to lose, whoever is in front of me. I want to win and be competitive."

Barca have won their last four games against United, including Champions League finals in 2009 and 2011, having won just one of the sides' previous eight meetings in European competitions (D4 L3).

Xavi labelled Gerard Pique a "Barca legend" after the defender played his final game at Camp Nou before retirement.

Barcelona's 2-0 home win against Almeria on Saturday was Pique's last outing at the famous stadium prior to hanging up his boots, with second-half goals from Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong sealing the victory, making up for Robert Lewandowski missing an early penalty.

An emotional Pique was substituted in the 84th minute, receiving a standing ovation from the 92,605 fans in attendance and hugging each of his team-mates as he went off for the final time.

Speaking after the game, Xavi praised his former team-mate, with the Barca head coach saying: "He had a great game, we wanted to send him off in the best possible way.

"The bigger the game for him, the better he performed. I have already told him that he is a Barca legend and we are very thankful."

Xavi also mentioned the "beautiful" reception Pique received, though pointed out that some fans had recently not been as kind to the player, whistling in displeasure at him during the 3-0 win against Villarreal last month.

"Everything is beautiful today," he added. "The game, the performance, which was phenomenal. The tribute to Pique... We have to reconsider many times when we whistle at footballers. That doesn't add up.

"What adds up is this, 15 days ago there was whistling [at Pique]. He deserves this farewell. We have to realise that whistling doesn't help."

Appropriately for Pique, it was another clean sheet, meaning Barca have only conceded in one of their last 12 league games, which was the 3-1 defeat in El Clasico at Real Madrid, the only LaLiga game they have not won in that period.

Barca have conceded just four goals after 13 league games, equalling the lowest tally conceded at this stage of the competition in the top-flight (also four by Atletico Madrid in 1995-96).

Xavi was satisfied with the points that send Barca back to the top of LaLiga ahead of Madrid's trip to Rayo Vallecano on Monday, but felt they could have scored more after having 27 shots, the most they have managed in a league game this season.

"It was a complete match," he said. "I think the result could have been greater, it did not reflect the superiority of the team, but it gives us three points to continue in the fight."

Xavi believes Lionel Messi could finally get his hands on the World Cup in Qatar, tipping Argentina alongside Brazil as favourites to land the trophy.

The closest Messi has come to being a World Cup winner was when Argentina were beaten by Germany in the 2014 final.

His unprecedented seven Ballon d'Or successes underline Messi's individual greatness, but he is missing the most valued team prize of all.

Winning the Copa America with Argentina last year gave him a first major title in senior international football, with Argentina getting the better of Brazil at the Maracana in the final.

Now, at the age of 35, and in his final World Cup, Argentina captain Messi goes again, with former Barcelona team-mate Xavi strongly rating the Albiceleste's chances.

"Argentina and Brazil are a step ahead of everyone else," Xavi said on Friday.

"I see them very strong as a team, also with individual players, physical and in terms of tactics and strategy as well, they're two great teams.

"I think they're a step ahead of some of the best European teams right now. But in a World Cup you can never know. Everything can become complicated."

Xavi, a World Cup winner in 2010 with Spain and now head coach at Barcelona, added: "The European teams are very important: Spain, France, even England, have got very strong national sides, but I think Brazil and Argentina are a step stronger."

Brazil are five-time World Cup winners but have not triumphed since Ronaldo's eight goals drove them to 2002 glory, while Argentina have carried off the trophy twice, in 1978 and 1986.

Messi, surprisingly, has never scored in the knockout rounds and is four goals behind Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina's World Cup record scorer (10 goals).

European teams have dominated the World Cup in recent times, with Italy, Spain, Germany and France winning the last four editions.

Xavi described Gerard Pique's retirement as "the law of life" and confirmed it could prompt Barcelona to dive back into the transfer market in January.

At the age of 35, and with a reduced role this season, Pique has taken it upon himself to call time on his career, rather than see out a contract that was due to run through to 2024.

Head coach Xavi has accepted his decisions have led to this point, having made it clear to Pique in pre-season he would not be a regular starter.

Pique will play his final Camp Nou game on Saturday, providing he is involved against Almeria, and has told Xavi he will also be available to face Osasuna in an away game on Tuesday.

The season then goes on hold as the World Cup takes over, and Pique will say his farewells to his boyhood club, for whom he has played over 600 games.

Barcelona will move on without him, and Xavi said: "Now we need to build a new generation. A lot of young players are gaining importance. It's a new era.

"We hope this is a new generation that gives a lot to the club. It's a shame when you see great team-mates and friends who are saying goodbye to football. 

"It's a sad thing to see, it makes you nostalgic, but it's the law of life, and it will happen to everyone."

Xavi believes Pique, who already has substantial business interests, could be a future Barcelona president.

"Gerard can be whatever he wants," said Xavi, when that notion was put to him. "For the ability he's got, the leadership, the personality he transmits, he can be whatever he wants. He's got abilities without doubt.

"He's super competitive, intelligent, he's got an amazing intellectual capacity, much more than normal."

With Pique on his way out, Barcelona will be one defender short of where Xavi would like them. He had hoped Pique would stay on, but instead he confirmed talks will take place about the possibility of making a new signing.

"We'll see. Now Gerard's leaving, yes maybe," Xavi said in his press conference on Friday. 

"We’ll have a meeting after the match against Osasuna to plan a little bit. We'll have time to plan with Mateu [Alemany, sporting director] and the president [Joan Laporta]."

Xavi played in the same team as Pique for seven years from 2008 to 2015, winning three Champions Leagues together and abundant domestic honours. They were also Spain team-mates for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 triumphs.

The coach has little doubt Pique will make a success of whatever he turns his hand to.

"A lot of times we don't choose the end," said Xavi. "It's worked out this way for better or worse and I wish him all the best.

"He's always given his all. He's a winner, he's always been a winner, and he'll continue to be that wherever he goes."

Pique will hope his final game at Barcelona's home is a winning farewell, and the signs are good.

Among current LaLiga teams, Barcelona have played more games against Almeria without defeat (P12 W10 D2) than against any other opponent. At home, Barcelona have won their six games against Almeria in LaLiga, scoring three or more goals in each of the last three.

Almeria's Rubi has lost all six of his games as a head coach in LaLiga against Barcelona, and the club have not had an away win against any opponent in LaLiga since February 2015, during a relegation season. They have drawn one and lost 12 on the road in LaLiga since that last win, with this their first season back in the top flight.

Xavi accepts he "played an important part" in Gerard Pique deciding to retire after downscaling the defender's first-team role at Barcelona this season.

The head coach revealed he went through "some of the most difficult moments" of his career when he made the decisions during the off-season that have spurred his former team-mate to quit.

Pique, a Barcelona great who won eight LaLiga titles and the Champions League three times with the club, is set to play his last Camp Nou match on Saturday when Almeria are the visitors.

The 35-year-old will then be available for the match at Osasuna on Tuesday, according to Xavi, but will put a full stop to his playing career after that.

Xavi said coaching friends can make his role "unpleasant" when big decisions have to be made, and he called on Barcelona supporters to give Pique a rousing send-off.

It should not be taken as a given that Pique would start the Almeria game, Xavi said, but he seems certain to appear at some stage.

"He deserves all the love of the Barca fans," Xavi told a press conference on Friday. "I've known him as a team-mate and as a coach, and what he's decided, to put a full stop to his career, I understand completely due to the circumstances.

"He feels less responsible, less useful. I was in that position, too, and the normal thing is you take a step aside.

"He's got a contract and could easily continue with the club, but he's shown great professionalism by stepping aside, and I wish him all the best. The Barca fans should value him as he is, as a legend of the club.

"We had a conversation ahead of the season. I communicated my intentions. It was a private conversation. It was some of the most difficult moments of my career, speaking with Gerard this summer.

"As a friend of him, I love him a lot and hold him in high esteem, but it's something that happens to all of us. You arrive at a moment where you're not so important or useful for the team.

"You feel badly. I had to go through the circumstances, and it's difficult to manage this.

"I played an important part. I decided the best for the team, the institution. I have to make these decisions. It's a very difficult role where you don't receive a lot of gratitude, but I have to do the best for the team and for the club.

"I was honest with him in every moment over the summer, and the circumstances have helped him decide he'll put an end to his career."

Xavi hinted that Pique was far from happy about being pushed to the fringes of the first team.

"I tried to be honest. The player always feels when you're not wanted very much and don't play very much, the one to blame is the coach," Xavi said.

"You have to live with that, that's my work. It's an unpleasant job sometimes, having to take decisions like this with former team-mates like Pique and Dani Alves, and these are situations that aren't easy to manage."

Only four players have featured in more games for Barca than Pique, who has 614 appearances. Those ahead of him are Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674) – all of whom formed part of a great Barcelona team in the late 2000s and into the 2010s.

"He's won everything here," Xavi said. "He's been one of the best centre-backs in history, and whatever decision he makes is to be respected 100 per cent. He's got every right to choose how and when."

Hector Bellerín believes Xavi and Barcelona need time to build something special as the defender hopes to be part of a new era of success.

Barca showed their ambition in the transfer market ahead of Xavi's first full season as head coach, with Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde among a host of new signings to arrive at Camp Nou.

Bellerin was among the recruits, arriving at the club where he started his career on a one-year deal.

Barcelona failed to qualify for the Champions League round of 16 but are just a point behind leaders Real Madrid in the LaLiga table, with 10 wins from 12 games.

Full-back Bellerin suggested Xavi, who replaced the sacked Ronald Koeman last November, may need the same sort of time that Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp have been afforded.

He told Catalunya Radio: "Football is neither black nor white. There are many conditioning factors that can affect it.

"There are many signings. These projects take time to bear fruit. Klopp and Guardiola did not win anything in their first season. Things take time."

Bellerin had been sidelined due to injury since joining the Blaugrana, but he came through a 4-2 Champions League win at Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday and hopes to kick on.

The 27-year-old said: "I'm very happy to be here. It's a dream I've always had. It's been the first full 90 minutes I've had all season."

Former Arsenal man Bellerin would welcome the opportunity to remain with the Catalan giants beyond the end of the season.

He said: "At the moment, I have a one-year contract. I would like to renew, but it depends on both parties."

Mikel Arteta insists he is "extremely happy and proud" to lead Arsenal despite reports linking him with Barcelona as he praised Xavi's "phenomenal" work at Camp Nou.

Arsenal have won 10 of their 12 Premier League games this season to lead Manchester City by two points at the summit, and they will top their Europa League group if they beat Zurich on Thursday. 

The Gunners' excellent form has seen Arteta linked with a move to Barcelona, where Xavi is facing mounting pressure after failing to lead the Blaugrana to the Champions League's last 16.

However, Arteta remains fully focused on his current role, saying: "What I can say is I am extremely proud and happy to be where I am now. I think Barcelona are on a really good path now.

"I think they have a phenomenal coach, a coach who has been an absolute legend at that club and has lifted the whole place, and you have to be very respectful of that."

Despite Arsenal's strong results, some onlookers have expressed worries about the form of Gabriel Jesus, who has not scored since a 3-1 derby win over Tottenham at the start of last month.

However, Jesus claimed two assists in Sunday's 5-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest, as well as playing a key role in the first of Reiss Nelson's two goals, and Arteta sees no cause for concern.

"If he makes three assists in a game, I don't think he has to make many adjustments," Arteta said. "I will be really happy if he is able to do that every game."

Xavi has claimed Barcelona are candidates to triumph in the Europa League, but did not go as far as to call his side favourites.

Barca ran out 4-2 winners in their final Champions League game – a dead rubber against Viktoria Plzen.

Though they managed only two wins in their Champions League campaign, Barca will be one of the strongest, if not the strongest, sides in Europe's second-tier club competition.

While Xavi expects his side to be competitive, he did not claim they are outright frontrunners to succeed.

"I would say that we are candidates to win the Europa League," he said, sidestepping a direct answer when asked if Barca were favourites.

"There is a very nice Europa League left to play for, and at Barca, we are a candidate who can fight for it and achieve success."

To qualify for the last 16, Barca will need to head through a play-off round against second-place sides from the Europa League group stage.

They successfully defeated Napoli in the same bracket last season following another early Champions League exit, ultimately losing to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals.

On another curtailed run at Europe's biggest prize, Xavi added: "The feedback is negative. This stage had its moments, and we didn't take our chances.

"Bayern Munich and Inter did. We couldn't win in Munich or Milan. This is the balance in the end."

Franck Kessie was forced off with a hamstring injury in the second half against Plzen and Xavi admitted the Ivory Coast international does not look to be in good shape.

"He is bad," he acknowledged. "He has hurt his hamstring. He has had the bad luck of an injury."

Andres Iniesta says the booing of Barcelona players Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique by their own fans is "not pleasant".

The pair were jeered by Barca supporters at Camp Nou when being substituted onto the pitch in last month's win over Villarreal, with their refusal to take pay cuts thought to be the reason for the negative reception.

Barca head coach Xavi spoke out against the booing after the game, and Iniesta has joined his former midfield partner in being displeased with the fans' behaviour.

"It is something that no one likes and does not like, regardless of whether they are colleagues or friends," Iniesta, who ended his 20-year association with Barcelona when joining Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2018, told AS.

"That your fans whistle you is not pleasant but we know that Barca is a very demanding and particular club. These are situations that have occurred throughout history with great players and people express what they feel at that moment.

"Both Busi [Busquets] and Geri [Pique] are at Barca because they still have the ability to perform, that's how it is. We would all like this not to happen, even those who whistle, because if they do it is because of the club's level of demand."

Barca are second in LaLiga, just a point behind rivals Real Madrid, but another early exit from the Champions League means their wait for a first European title since 2014-15 goes on.

Iniesta believes there is something missing from Xavi's side, adding: "I want Barca, and the people I know and appreciate, to do well.

"Since Xavi came in, the evolution has been very positive and the current squad is super complete in all lines, but there are things that happen and the Champions League is decided by details.

"It is clear that some things are not being done well or not enough to change that dynamic. We haven't been able to handle those details that I'm talking about and that decide play-offs and matches."

Barcelona head coach Xavi attempted to put the club's embarrassing Champions League elimination into perspective as he insisted the team is on the "right track".

The Blaugrana will play no part in the Champions League knockout stages for the second season running after accumulating just four points from five games.

Prior to last season, Barca had reached at least the last 16 of the Champions League in 19 successive campaigns.

Their fate was sealed last Wednesday when Inter beat Viktoria Plzen to secure their passage alongside Group C winners Bayern Munich, who crushed Barca 3-0 at Camp Nou later that day.

While it was undoubtedly a major blow considering Barca's significant squad investment in the face of financial issues during the transfer window, Xavi feels he is able to offer perspective given he has seen the club at its worst and its best.

"Unfortunately and luckily, I have lived through the worst period in the club's history, from 2000 to 2003, and the best, from when [Frank] Rijkaard arrived until I retired," he said.

"We have to insist, now is not the time to doubt. We are in a situation that we did not expect, eliminated from the Champions League, but we have to believe in the idea, draw a line and have faith.

"I am very positive. I continue to think that we are on the right track. The titles will be won in 2023 [not now].

"It did not help to be put in a very difficult Champions group, but this year we have taken a step. In Munich the team played very well.

"We had the opportunity in our hands, but it escaped us due to football mistakes, adverse situations and refereeing decisions.

"We had the chance, but we did not score points in Munich after the good game we played, and then only managed a draw against Inter when we had it under control. They were things that depended on us.

"We had the misfortune of being drawn into a very strong group and not being up to the task. This is the reality."

Tuesday's trip to Viktoria Plzen has very little riding on it, with Barca already assured of their spot in the Europa League.

As such, Xavi is expected to rotate his squad and he confirmed Robert Lewandowski is being rested due to a slight back problem.

But as for those who can feature, Xavi is urging them not to be complacent just because the result is essentially irrelevant, as he looks to maintain their momentum in LaLiga ahead of the World Cup.

Asked what Barca have to play for on Tuesday, Xavi said: "Winning, playing well, offering good feelings.

"For prestige and professionalism, we have to go all out and finish this competition well. It's very important to go into the last two league games before the World Cup with a good feeling."

Xavi believes Barcelona "played with anxiety" at Valencia but "never stopped believing" as Robert Lewandowski struck an injury-time winner at Mestalla.

A tight contest looked to be petering out to a goalless draw when Lewandowski got on the end of a Raphinha cross into the box to divert in a vital goal to bring a smile to Barca after an unhappy few days.

After being eliminated from the Champions League group stage for the second season running prior to losing 3-0 at home to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, the Blaugrana were searching for a morale-boosting win in Valencia.

Speaking after the game, head coach Xavi outlined how much the last week impacted his side's performance, saying: "It was a very important victory. Almost in the last second. We never stopped believing.

"We played with anxiety, the Champions League affected us. Wednesday weighed on us. We suffered. After three quarters [of the game] it became difficult. The decision-making was bad, the result of anxiety.

"We were better than Valencia and we deserved the victory. It wasn't an excellent game, we weren't inspired, but it's vital [the win]."

 

The 93rd-minute goal from Lewandowski was his 13th of the season, putting him six ahead of his nearest challengers – Real Betis' Borja Iglesias and Espanyol's Joselu (both on seven goals) – in the race for the Pichichi.

"The goal is of quality," Xavi said. "Robert is here to make a difference. I thought it might have been offside, because of the dynamics we had.

"But we have to improve. We have to make better decisions. It could have been a tie and it would be a drama, and it shouldn't be like that. We've improved a lot, we're on the way."

The win puts Barca top of LaLiga ahead of Real Madrid's game at home to Girona on Sunday, but Xavi still believes it is important to put pressure on their great rivals in the race for the title.

"It's very important for the team, we deserved it," he added. "We made an effort, we worked hard and the reward is important. We sleep as leaders, and we want to put pressure on Real Madrid."

Xavi has called on Barcelona to "turn the page" after their Champions League disappointment as he still believes they can deliver a "great season".

The Blaugrana were eliminated from Europe's elite club competition in midweek, with Inter's victory over Viktoria Plzen sealing their fate even before a 3-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich.

Barca paid the price for taking only a point from their double-header against Inter, who followed Bayern into the last 16.

The Catalan giants had invested heavily in the transfer market – despite their financial difficulties – to try to ensure there would be no repeat of last season's group-stage exit, but Xavi's side still fell short.

However, sitting second in LaLiga and only three points behind leaders, champions and rivals Real Madrid, the Barca coach is ready to retrain his focus on a successful domestic campaign.

"In the Champions League, we have made our assessments, [about] what we have lacked but also that we had it in our hands," Xavi said before Saturday's game against Valencia.

"Now it's time to turn the page. Tomorrow is one of those moments in the season to react."

He added: "I'm still positive. It's been a blow, but we can have a great season. There are many titles left.

"In LaLiga, we are in a good dynamic against strong rivals. It is another test to show a reaction and pride."

With Barca already certain to fall into the Europa League before the Bayern match, Xavi suggested "the psychological part weighed a lot".

Failure in Europe will surely increase pressure on the coach's position, but he confirmed he had spoken to president Joan Laporta to analyse what had gone wrong.

"With the president, we talk continuously, practically for every game," Xavi said. "We see each other after the games. The diagnosis is clear: there are things that have not depended on us, and we must improve those things that do depend on us."

He added: "I think in Munich we saw a good Barca, this one also against Villarreal, Athletic, Real Sociedad, Sevilla; I think you are seeing things.

"I want to believe that we are on the way. I've experienced it as a footballer: we can't get off track. And if we don't arrive [at the best level], another coach will come."

Xavi has been backed to enjoy a "remarkable" coaching career by former team-mate Andres Iniesta, despite Barcelona's Champions League exit on Wednesday.

Barca trail Real Madrid by just three points at the top of LaLiga after winning nine of their first 11 games this season, but have received heavy criticism following another European failure.

Inter's 4-0 win over Viktoria Plzen put Barca out of contention for a top-two finish in Group C on Wednesday, and the Blaugrana failed to salvage any pride in a subsequent 3-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich – their sixth consecutive Champions League loss to the Bavarians.

Iniesta, however, believes Xavi will recover from that setback, telling Corriere dello Sport it brings him "so much joy" to see his former midfield partner in the Camp Nou dugout.

"He is a friend and he will have a remarkable career," Iniesta said. "He is prepared, he has studied and had Barcelona as his guide."

Iniesta now captains Japanese side Vissel Kobe, and while the 38-year-old acknowledges his own career is drawing to a close, he is unsure whether he will follow Xavi into coaching.

"I know that when I have to quit, it won't be a great day," he added. "I will think back to when my dad used to take me to play, I will regret many things. 

"Then I will also think about the future, I don't know yet if I will be a coach or a sporting director. I still don't have clear ideas."

Iniesta and Xavi formed one of the most iconic midfield partnerships in football history, contributing to four Champions League triumphs between 2005-06 and 2014-15 during a golden age for Barca.

Young midfielders Pedri and Gavi have earned comparisons to that duo after emerging as key players in Xavi's side, and Iniesta hopes they can replicate their achievements. 

"They said to me that I resembled [Pep] Guardiola, then there was Xavi," Iniesta said. "Now it is up to Pedri and Gavi. Football works in cycles."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta concedes his side's premature Champions League exit is a shame but was philosophical about their "young project" under Xavi.

The Blaugrana were officially eliminated and consigned to the Europa League following Inter's 4-0 win over Viktoria Plzen earlier on Wednesday, before producing a limp home display in a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich.

Barcelona have been condemned to a group-stage exit for the second straight season, while that comes almost 12 months since Xavi's appointment to replace Ronald Koeman.

The five-time Champions League winners spent significantly in Xavi's first off-season at the helm, bringing in Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen, Hector Bellerin, Franck Kessie, Marcos Alonso and Raphinha.

Barca's failure to reach the Champions League knockout stages will have a financial impact on the club, but Laporta was philosophical.

"It's a shame, but you can't blame the players or the coach for anything," Laporta told Barca TV. "We have to look forward, because we have LaLiga and other competitions left.

"This is a young project in which from the beginning we knew we were going to have ups and downs. The league remains and we have to show that we continue."

The Blaugrana are second in LaLiga after a strong start to the campaign with 28 points from 11 games, three points behind Real Madrid, whose El Clasico victory earlier this month put them top.

"LaLiga is very important and we have it close," Laporta said. "The message is to look forward. This has already happened."

Barca's 3-0 home loss to the German champions marked the sixth straight defeat against Bayern, including the 8-2 Champions League quarter-final rout in 2020.

"Bayern is a consolidated and powerful team, one of the best in Europe and they did not play anything, they left relaxed," Laporta added.

"For us it was very complicated and the [Inter] game against Plzen was torture, but we still have faith."

Barca midfielder Pedri was more forthright in his assessment of the side's elimination.

"For me it's a failure," he told Movistar. "We don't deserve to be in the Champions League, we've shown it in games. But we have many competitions to face and give joy to the fans who have been with us at all times."

This was the first time Barca have been eliminated from the Champions League group stage in back-to-back seasons since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 campaigns under Louis van Gaal.

Madrid will be Spain's only team in the last 16 with Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid all out with a game to spare. The last season Spain only had one team in the knockout rounds was 1998-99, also Los Blancos.

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