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We have to motivate ourselves to finish second,’ says Xavi

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We have to motivate ourselves to finish second,’ says Xavi

Barcelona players look sad after a third home defeat in a row for the first time in the club’s history. Photograph: Urbanandsport/NurPhoto/Shutterstock
Barcelona are a club that are used to finishing in first place but now must find the drive to ensure they conclude the season second behind Real Madrid in La Liga and qualify for the Champions League, manager Xavi Hernández said.

Barca’s 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou on Sunday marked the first time the club had lost three straight home games and all but sealed the league for rivals Real Madrid.

Real Madrid now need only one point from their last five games to seal the title, while Barcelona sit second on 63 points, level with Sevilla. Barcelona were also ousted from the Europa League earlier this month, when they fell 3-0 at home to Eintratch Frankfurt.

“We were all revved up with the excellent run in the league and the Europa League,” Xavi told reporters. “I understand it’s not as motivating for the fans and players to compete for second place. But we have to be in the Champions League, we want to hear the Champions League music next season.

“There is a lot at stake. In Barcelona’s history it’s about coming first, but we have to understand and inspire ourselves to finish second.”

The home defeat against Rayo followed the Camp Nou loss to Cádiz, resulting to harsh condemnation in the media. “Disaster!!!” Catalonia daily newspaper Sport yelled on its front page on Monday. Barça are also in risk of missing qualification for the Champions League outright, as only six points separate them from Betis in fifth as the battle to finish in the top four and guarantee a spot in the top European competition increases.

Rayo players celebrate after taking a 1-0 lead at Camp Nou.
Rayo players celebrate after taking a 1-0 lead at Camp Nou. Photograph: Alejandro García/EPA
The Copa del Rey champions will host Barça in two weeks seeking to close the deficit further. Barça will have a difficult time against Betis, who are motivated after winning the cup final on penalties last Saturday, their first trophy in almost 20 years.

Atlético Madrid are fourth on 61 points and even Real Sociedad, sixth on 55 points, are still in play with five games to go.

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