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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Big changes ahead at Barcelona

Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain claims big changes lie ahead at the Catalan club following two seasons without a major trophy.

Coach Frank Rijkaard has left the club after five seasons in charge and will be replaced by youth team boss and former Barca midfielder Pep Guardiola in the summer.

And Begiristain believes the 37 year-old is the right man to lead Barcelona into a glorious era.

'The most important decision was the change of coach,' he said.

'We have an exciting project ahead and Guardiola has asked for full control of the dressing-room. We believe he is the right man to take the club forward.'

Txiki also confirmed that there will be plenty of changes to the playing squad.

And the former Barca winger revealed that the club are close to agreeing a deal for Manchester United defender Gerard Pique.

'Deco will be one of the players to leave, but Sylvinho may stay with us,' he continued.

'There will be changes, but I can't say any more than that.

'Talks (with Pique) are at an advanced stage.

'He is one of the players we are interested in, but he is involved in the Champions League final so things are on hold at the moment.'

Begiristain had met the press to discuss the reasons behind Barcelona's recent failures.

He refused to criticise Rijkaard, but argued that a change of coach was necessary.

'We came up with a plan in which we decided to put our confidence in those who took us to the (Champions League) final in Paris, but the day-to-day management let us down,' he added.

'Frank deserved to finish the season, but looking to the future, a change was needed.'

Meanwhile, the club's sporting vice-president, Marc Ingla, said players, coaches and directors must assume collective responsibility for the team's poor season.

'The season was unsatisfactory and we must all take responsibility for that; the players, the coaching staff, the technical secretary and the board,' he said.

'We weren't able to turn things around.

'There was a lot of excitement, but the coaches weren't able to manage the squad (correctly) and the players weren't able to take the opportunities that came their way in the games.'

Ingla revealed that Barcelona made contact with several coaches in January with a view to ultimately succeeding Rijkaard, but said that there was never any chance of the Dutchman being replaced halfway through the season.

'In January we made contact with a few coaches, but we never thought about changing coach halfway through the season,' he added.

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