Don't write off Barcelona, says Xavi
Xavi Hernandez has warned that Barcelona should not be written off despite their stunning 7-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals.
Barca have often swept all before them in recent seasons, but were thoroughly outclassed by the runaway Bundesliga champions.
There was a sense of an era ending at the Camp Nou as a jaded and dispirited home side were overwhelmed 3-0 on the night, leading to speculation that the team built by Pep Guardiola has had its day.
Xavi, perhaps the most important symbol of the current La Masia generation - which has won three Champions Leagues since 2006 - reminded everyone that Barcelona will wrap up a fourth La Liga crown in five seasons if they beat Real Betis on Sunday, and predicted that they would be back next season.
"This Barca has a future," the 33-year-old told Canal Plus. "We do not need to be drastic.
"On Sunday, we have another competition. We competed as far as we could. I am always optimistic, and this team is always motivated for more. We were not able to compete in the Copa del Rey and Champions League semis. But I think there is a team here to continue."
Barca ended Wednesday's game against Bayern with just five of the 2009 Champions League winning team on the pitch, and two of those - goalkeeper Victor Valdes and striker David Villa - could leave in the summer.
However, playmaker Xavi said he expected his absent team-mates, including Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Eric Abidal, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano, to help ensure Barca are a force again next time around.
"[Bayern] are at an extraordinary level, and we came in missing important players," he said. "They were better and are deserving finalists.
"Physically, we arrived in bad form because of the absences. Busquets, Abidal, Puyol, Mascherano... these are important players. But Bayern were better - mentally strong, physically extraordinary."
Barca coach Tito Vilanova faced questions about the end of an era at his post-game press conference.
Asked why he had withdrawn Xavi and Andres Iniesta once Bayern went ahead, he said he had marshalled his resources as well as possible across three competitions this season, but that the number of games played was catching up with some players.
"We have given playing time to all the players this year," Vilanova explained. "We have never distributed the load more than we have this season. We had to score six goals and, at that moment, I thought we could not do it.
"Xavi has been dealing with injuries, and we have an important game this Sunday. These players have played over 300 games in the past five years. The first half of the season through December was very good. But now it is getting more difficult."
Speculation in Catalonia has already turned to a predicted shake-up in the summer, with Dortmund defender Mats Hummels and Santos star Neymar among those tipped to arrive.
Vilanova said it was likely that there would be additions, but stressed that the core of the team remained strong.
"All squads must be reinforced," he said. "But we need to get our players back. We came into this tie with a lot of people out. This is a very good squad. You cannot always win."