Real Madrid lead over Barcelona 'abysmal' but plenty of time to close gap, says Xavi

Barca travel to second-placed Sevilla aiming to chip away at rivals' 16-point advantage atop La Liga

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New Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez has described the 16-point gap between La Liga leaders Real Madrid and his team as "abysmal", but insisted there is still plenty of matches left for the Catalans to close the gap.

Barcelona, who sit eighth in La Liga having won just seven of their 17 matches so far, aim to reduce the difference to 13 points when they play their game in hand on Tuesday night, although that would require a victory at second-placed Sevilla. A win for the hosts, meanwhile, would cut Madrid's advantage to just three points.

"It's an abysmal gap to Real Madrid, we are 16 points behind, but there is a lot of the league [season] left and we can't rule anything out," Xavi said in his pre-match press conference. "It's a matter of results, of knowing how to compete and defend better.

"We will be daring against Sevilla, we will play with high pressure and recover the ball high in the opposition's half, it is our model of play."

Xavi, a Barcelona legend from his playing days when he was an instrumental midfielder during the club's most successful era, has taken on a big challenge as manager at Camp Nou. Severely restricted by their precarious finances, Barca have seen several first-team stars depart since last season, most notably their greatest ever player Lionel Messi.

The squad that remains is far from the vintage side that, with Xavi in the middle, dominated Spanish and European football for a generation, and the 41-year-old Catalan believes Barca should look to Sevilla's recent success as an effective model to emulate.

"It is another chance to face a direct rival. They do things very well, we tend to look abroad, at Bayern Munich, but you have to also look at how Sevilla work," said Xavi, who since returning to Barcelona from Al Sadd has overseen three victories in his first seven games as the club failed to advance from their Champions League group for the first time since 2003.

"[Sevilla manager Julen] Lopetegui is one of the best, and also [sporting director] Monchi. They are a great team with a great coach and we are looking forward to it, the three points would give us a boost in morale."

Updated: December 21, 2021, 7:17 AM