sport news THE EURO FILES: It's time for Xavi to go down swinging in his final El ... trends now

sport news THE EURO FILES: It's time for Xavi to go down swinging in his final El ... trends now
sport news THE EURO FILES: It's time for Xavi to go down swinging in his final El ... trends now

sport news THE EURO FILES: It's time for Xavi to go down swinging in his final El ... trends now

It's Xavi’s last stand on Sunday – his final El Clasico in charge of Barcelona. And things can go one of only two ways.

Win, and he plays out his time in charge in something at least resembling a title race. The gap will be five points with six matches remaining.

Fail to win and there will be no more matches that matter. His legacy as Barcelona coach will be set — more red cards than trophies.

Real Madrid go into Sunday’s game having had a day’s less recovery time after 120 minutes of defending against Manchester City. They still have difficult away games at Real Sociedad and Villarreal, plus the distraction of the Champions League semi-finals.

But at Barcelona there has been no clarion call, no tub-thumping — they have been closer to thumping each other.

Barcelona manager Xavi is preparing for his last El Classico as the Catalan side's head coach

Barcelona manager Xavi is preparing for his last El Classico as the Catalan side's head coach

Barcelona are reeling from their midweek Champions League elimination by Paris Saint-Germain

Barcelona are reeling from their midweek Champions League elimination by Paris Saint-Germain

Barcelona are now preparing themself for a clash against arch rivals Real Madrid who celebrating beating Man City on Wednesday

Barcelona are now preparing themself for a clash against arch rivals Real Madrid who celebrating beating Man City on Wednesday

Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan hung defender Ronald Araujo out to dry for his early sending off against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, saying: ‘To go a player down so early, it just kills the game. Let the goalkeeper have a chance to save us or even concede a goal,’ he said.

Araujo responded: ‘I would rather keep what I think (about Gundogan’s comments) to myself. I believe there is a (dressing room) code and there are certain values that need to be respected.’

The squad is split between those who believe hard truths need to be told, be that publicly or privately, and those who side with Araujo and are beginning to resent the big signings who have arrived in the last two years — Robert Lewandowski, Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo among them.

And managing all this is Xavi, already working his notice. It’s long been clear, in the parlance of Monty Python, that he is not the Messiah, just a very naughty boy.

Barca fans had hoped for the second coming of Pep Guardiola. Instead they have a coach whose red card in midweek was his third this season. He’s been booked 22 times since he took over as Barca coach, more than any other manager in Spain in the same time.

But despite his shortcomings, the striking thing about Barcelona’s plight is that things could get worse after him.

Don’t rule out them looking back fondly on the Xavi era in a few years from now.

After all, he delivered the title last season. This year he has had to deal with the move away form the Camp Nou.

Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gundogan hung defender Ronald Araujo out to dry for his early sending off against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League

Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gundogan hung defender Ronald Araujo out to dry for his early sending off against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League

Beat Madrid and Xavi plays out his time in charge in something at least resembling a LaLiga title race

Beat Madrid and Xavi plays out his time in charge in something at least resembling a LaLiga title race

How different would things have been on Tuesday had there been 96,000 on top of the pitch instead of 50,000, a running track’s width from it?

The 44-year-old has got things right. Last season his use of Gavi and Pedri as the top points in a midfield square gave Barcelona a different dimension.

This season his conversion of former Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen into a holding midfielder has made them more solid.

Christensen was

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