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Xavi staring down the barrel as Antwerp defeat deepens Barcelona woes

Barcelona suffered another shock result in their final group game of the Champions League as they were defeated 3-2 by Belgian minnows Royal Antwerp last night.

The Catalans had already booked their place in the round of 16, but their struggles are worsening.

Although Barca fielded a heavily rotated team, Robert Lewandowski, Ferran Torres and Andreas Christensen featured in the line-up.

However, they were all over the place against Antwerp, who had lost all five games in the Champions League until last night.

Barca enjoyed more possession but allowed Antwerp to pounce on defensive slip-ups, repeating what happened in the 4-2 defeat against Girona last week.

Xavi has been the focal point of mounting criticism in recent times, not only for poor performances but also for his comments in press conferences.

He recently raised a few eyebrows by claiming Barca were still under construction and not ready to challenge for the Champions League title, which reportedly hasn’t gone well with the hierarchy.

While his future may not be in jeopardy at the moment, as Barca see him as the ideal man to lead their project long-term, his job ultimately hinges on delivering trophies this season.

Xavi made a remarkable impact last season, leading the Blaugrana to the La Liga crown for the first time in four years, although they bowed out of the Champions League at the group stage.

With Joao Felix, Joan Cancelo and Ilkay Gundogan arriving in the summer, Barca were expected to challenge on all fronts this term.

While injuries have hindered Barca’s progress, that cannot be used as an excuse for some of their performances in recent weeks.

It all started in El Clasico, where Barcelona suffered their first defeat of the season. Since then, they have suffered defeats against Shakhtar Donetsk, Girona and Antwep and drawn with Rayo Vallecano.

Barca’s heartless defence has made it easy for opponents to rip through the backline.

The defence was the cornerstone of Barca’s success last season, as they conceded only 18 goals in 37 league games.

However, they have leaked 16 goals in 18 games this term – a record which speaks for itself.

With Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde, Christensen and Alejandro Balde to call on, it is baffling to see how their defence has been so poor this season.

The timing of the lean patch is worrying, with Barca trailing in La Liga and likely to face a tough test in the last-16 of the Champions League.

With doubts starting to emerge about Xavi’s abilities, he needs to revive Barca’s fortunes quickly.

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