Lewa hosts Barça lunch after Xavi exit decision

 

Barcelona players held a team lunch at Robert Lewandowski's house on Monday in the wake of coach Xavi Hernández's decision to leave the club at the end of the season.

The lunch lasted for around two hours and was only attended by the players, with none of Xavi or his coaching staff present.
Xavi, 44, made the surprise announcement that he will depart in the summer after Saturday's 5-3 loss to Villarreal, which left Barça 11 points behind LaLiga leaders Girona.

It came on the back of elimination from the Spanish Supercopa and Copa del Rey this month, which further increased the pressure on Xavi.

Xavi -- who replaced Ronald Koeman at the end of 2021 -- had not told the players of his decision before making it official, with the majority of them learning of the news via social media and messages.
The Barça coach explained his reasoning to them before Sunday's training session, where president Joan Laporta also spoke to the squad.

Barça's players will hope the team bonding lunch can bring the group together as they continue to fight on two fronts this season, starting with Osasuna's visit to the Olympic Stadium in the league on Wednesday.

Despite being off the pace in LaLiga, they are not mathematically out of the title race with 17 games to go, while they need to finish in the top four to secure a place in next season's Champions League and the top two to feature in the Spanish Supercopa.

In Europe, they have a two-legged tie upcoming against Napoli in the round of 16 of the Champions League.

"These are difficult days for everyone," midfielder Pedri posted on Instagram. "We have to leave the excuses to one side, be critical of ourselves and kick on for the coach, the team and, above all, for the club and the supporters."

Teammate Gavi, out for the season with an ACL tear, added: "Backing you until the very end, boss."

Laporta has called for "unity" between now and the summer, saying that he hopes Xavi's announcement can help the team turn around a situation which has deteriorated in recent months.

Barça have conceded two or more goals in eight of their last 12 games in all competitions, including four or more on on four occasions -- and in each of their last two matches.

The defeat to Villareal was the first time they have leaked five goals at home in a league match since 1963, when they were beaten 5-1 by Madrid.

They have already conceded 46 goals in 32 games this season, which is the same amount as they conceded across 53 matches in the previous campaign, when they won LaLiga and the Supercopa.


Meanwhile, Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta has ruled himself out of the running to replace Xavi after reports in the Spanish media claiming he had told the London club he was considering leaving.

"It's totally untrue and I'm really upset about [the rumour]," Arteta said in a news conference on Monday. "I'm immersed in a beautiful journey with this club and there is still a lot to do."

However, Barça Atlétic coach Rafael Márquez has said he would like to be considered for the role.

"If an opportunity like that comes up, you cannot say no," the former Mexico international said.

Arteta and Márquez are just two of the many names to have been linked with the vacancy since Xavi's revelation, with sources telling ESPN a replacement is unlikely to be picked immediately as Barça carry out a thorough recruitment process.

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