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What Xavi still needs to accomplish this season at Barcelona for his legacy

The Barcelona manager has important work to do

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Xavi may be stepping down at the end of the season, but results over the next few months will determine how he’s remembered as manager of FC Barcelona.

Barca is alive in La Liga and the Champions League. They’re a long shot to win either competition, but it’s important they make a fight of it in both.

Atletico Madrid did Barcelona a favor last weekend, claiming a draw against Real Madrid, the league leaders, cutting the deficit for Barcelona to eight points.

On Saturday, there will be another opportunity for the Catalan giants to inch closer if Girona, their brethren up the road, can topple the Galacticos. If Barca and Girona both win, the Blaugranes would be just six points from the top.

Girona FC v Sevilla FC - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Xavi is not still here out of respect and symbolism. There’s a lot to play for. The job is to get his team to be consistent, and get results against teams they are clearly better than.

That’s what made the Villarreal defeat so devastating. The Yellow Submarine are having one of their worst seasons in recent memory. Beating Barcelona was their best win of the campaign.

Next up, Barcelona will play two more struggling clubs in Granada and Celta Vigo. For beginners, Xavi needs to get all six points here, and make it four in a row, continuing on the success the team just had against Alaves and Osasuna.

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Ion Alcoba Beitia/Getty Images

Doing so would put pressure on Real Madrid, and give Barcelona confidence going into their European showdown against Napoli.

They’ll have to do it on Sunday without Vitor Roque, whose red card ban was scandalously, and unsurprisingly, upheld.

This is one of those seasons where luck, if not outright conspiracy, seem to be on the side of Real Madrid.

They’re winning games they should lose, leaving it late in classic fashion, and getting some help from on the field and video assistant referees alike.

Barcelona, however, can’t make excuses. Their problems this season are their own, and it’s Xavi’s job to find solutions now.

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Having Roque back against Celta Vigo, and in the Champions League, could be a big help, to change the dynamic on the field, and give the manager a different profile on the forward line.

In addition to staying in the race domestically, Xavi absolutely needs to advance against Napoli.

So far, his history in Europe is highlighted by shocking eliminations to Eintracht Frankfurt and Manchester United in the Europa League.

When we ask the question, did Xavi leave the team better off, the Champions League will be the area where he is judged the most.

FC Barcelona v Eintracht Frankfurt - UEFA Europa League Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Barcelona’s problems go back a long time, but the current crisis they’re still living through really started the day Bayern Munich humiliated them. No doubt, there were warning signs with the Liverpool and Roma disasters too.

They’ll never truly be back to their iconic best without showing they can make a deep run in the competition.

If Xavi can get past Napoli, it would be a sign of significant progress. And he’ll be able to say his time as manager put the club on the path to recovery.

It would also give Barcelona some leverage to bring in a new manager with the ambition to take on a project that doesn’t look hopeless.

If, on the other hand, Barcelona crash out in the round of 16, and fade farther down the table in La Liga, Xavi’s legacy would take a serious hit.

So the question is, what will the manager do to achieve success the rest of the way?

Trust the teenagers? Or rely on the veterans as they come back from injury?

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Ion Alcoba Beitia/Getty Images

As of late, Lamine Yamal is the best player on the field. You want to manage his minutes to avoid fatigue, but on merit, he deserves to be starting every game. Can an argument be made that the job is Raphinha’s when he’s available?

Vitor Roque has shown an eye for goal, and a hunger to make the most of his chances. Could we see him in the starting eleven some time soon?

And what about Pau Cubarsí and Hector Fort?

All indications are that Xavi trusts these players. With Alejandro Balde out, Fort will have an easier job getting on the field out of necessity, which is good given the service he’s been able to provide in the final third.

Cubarsí is challenging for a spot outright. Could he be above Inigo Martinez on the depth chart?

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Ion Alcoba Beitia/Getty Images

These young players are Xavi’s true legacy. They will outlive him at the club, and he will always be able to say he was the manager who gave them a chance.

But he also needs to win games now.

It may be difficult to win a trophy this season, but Barcelona needs to make every game count by starting to show a championship mindset.

It’s the culture at the club that needs to change most of all. And Xavi still has time to shape it.

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