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By ESPN Staff

Messi speaks up in defence of Real's Schuster

Under-fire Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster has received support from an unexpected quarter - a member of the Barcelona camp.

Barca playmaker Lionel Messi has put aside club rivalries to follow in the footsteps of numerous Madrid players and sporting director Predrag Mijatovic in publicly backing Schuster, who was come under huge pressure following poor recent results.

''Schuster has given a lot to Madrid, for which some people still want him out,'' said Messi at a promotional event.

''It's surprising seeing how he has won a league. It doesn't seem good to me that he is being questioned when we aren't even halfway through the season.

''The fans at Barca and Madrid start to get very nervous when you lose two successive games.''

Madrid have lost four of their last eight competitive games and are five points behind leaders Barcelona, who are on a nine-match winning streak in La Liga as they seek their first title since 2006.

Meanwhile, Spain international Xavi could end speculation about his future by penning a new contract with Barcelona in the near future.

The 28-year-old midfielder has been in talks with Barca over a new long-term deal for several weeks now, with his existing contract due to expire in 2010.

Reports in Spain have suggested negotiations had stalled while Xavi considered his options, but the Euro 2008 winner has now suggested an agreement between the two parties could be imminent.

''Things are going well. It seems that shortly I will be able to say that I will stay here for many more years,'' he told Catalan radio station Ona FM.

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