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SOCCER

Xavi discusses Rudiger, Dembele ahead of crunch Sevilla clash

Barcelona have held talks with Antonio Rudiger's agent, but Xavi is not interested in discussing transfer targets as he focuses on league position.

Update:
RODOLFO MOLINADIARIO AS

Xavi refused to be drawn on talk of Barcelona signing Chelsea defender Antonio Rüdiger ahead of Sunday's LaLiga showdown with Sevilla.

Sahr Senesie, Rüdiger's half-brother and agent, was this week pictured entering a hotel in Barcelona with Blaugrana director of football Mateu Alemany and technical director Jordi Cruyff.

The Germany centre-back is out of contract at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season and has been free to talk to clubs from overseas since January.

But Barça head coach Xavi is focused on masterminding a win at Camp Nou this weekend that would move his side above Sevilla into second place, rather than potential new recruits.

Xavi: "Our job is to go for second place tomorrow"

He said during a press conference on Saturday: "I'm not going to talk about signings, we have a lot at stake. It is true that Mateu, Jordi and the board are working for next season, but our [job] is to go for second place tomorrow."

Ousmane Dembélé is in a similar situation to Rüdiger, with his Barca deal expiring at the conclusion of the campaign.

Xavi praised the France winger's professionalism amid uncertainty over his future and says only the 24-year-old can decide where he will be playing next season.

He said: "I haven't had a single complaint about Dembélé at a professional level since I arrived. He's a footballer of many levels, well worked, I still think he can be the best in his position. It's up to him, the renewal depends on him."

Meanwhile, the Barca boss is optimistic Gavi and Ronald Araújo, who are both under contract until the end of next season, will sign new deals.

"The club cannot afford to lose Gavi and Araújo, they are very important to us and I show it with the minutes I give them. I am optimistic and I hope a solution is reached," Xavi said.

Barça are unbeaten in 12 matches and have won five consecutive games in the Spanish top flight, the last of which was a 4-0 Clásico thrashing of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu before the international break.

The Catalan giants are 12 points adrift of Los Blancos with a game in hand and Xavi has demanded they maintain their momentum at the expense of Sevilla.

"The message is to continue, not to let our guard down, not to relax," he said. "The Bernabéu was good, but the goals are to be as high as possible in the league and win the Europa League." 

The coach added: "The break could have been good for us. It is a final sprint in which we have to grit our teeth."

Luuk de Jong will not face his parent club after testing positive for coronavirus, while Sergiño Dest, Samuel Umtiti, Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto are ruled out due to injury.

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