FC Barcelona Coach Xavi Cancels Pre-El Clasico Training Amid Locker Room Rift

FC Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez cancelled a training session just four days before a league-deciding installment of El Clasico against bitter rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

According to AS journalist Javi Miguel, who cited anonymous sources but is considered to be close to Xavi’s entourage, the decision was inspired by an “unbeneficial atmosphere to work in” which has also been “fostered by the controversial statements” of Barca midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

Barca and its fans are dejected after suffering a heartbreaking Champions League quarterfinal KO to Paris Saint-Germain this week.

The Catalans went into a second leg clash at the Montjuic Stadium with a 3-2 advantage after winning by that scoreline in Paris, and swiftly had a two-goal lead over their Ligue 1 visitors after Raphinha netted his third strike in the tie overall in under a quarter of an hour.

 

A moment of madness from Ronald Araujo turned the tide, however, with the Uruguayan hacking down Bradley Barcola and receiving a red card for being the last man.

Playing against a pacey outfit such as PSG for a full hour with 10 men proved to be too much for the Blaugrana, who went on to concede four goals and lost 6-4 on aggregate.

After a 60-man tunnel tussle Mundo Deportivosaid was started by Kylian Mbappe, Gundogan gave a scathing interview to CBS Sports where he criticized Araujo without mentioning his name.

 

“I prefer to, of course, concede the goal there and maybe give the striker a one-on-one even though he played the ball quite far. I don’t even know if he was able to reach the ball. But give him the opportunity, let our goalkeeper maybe save us, or even concede a goal because to go down one man and get a red card so early, it just kills the game,” Gundogan lamented.

According to AS, the remarks have influenced a “very rarefied and unbeneficial atmosphere to work in” picked up by Xavi and his staff in training on Wednesday.

The manager has therefore been “forced to rethink” his preparations for El Clasico on Sunday amid a “strong division” in the squad caused by Gundogan’s outburst, and cancelled Thursday’s session as a consequence.

Xavi now has just a few days to restore harmony, which might involve Gundogan having to explain himself to the rest of the squad as he did following a similar rant when Barca lost the season’s first Clasico to Madrid back in October.

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