Xavi signs new contract at Barcelona until 2025

Barcelona have confirmed head coach Xavi has signed a new contract running until 2025.

The former midfielder returned to the club in November 2021 and has enjoyed great success in just under two years in charge of La Blaugrana.

Under Xavi’s guidance, Barcelona won their first La Liga title in four years last season, temporarily signing off from Camp Nou amid renovation work in style.

Xavi’s previous contract was up at the end of the 2023/24 campaign, and Barcelona have confirmed that this deal has not been extended.

A club statement read: “FC Barcelona and coach Xavi Hernandez have reached an agreement for the extension of his contract until 20 June 2025 with the option of an additional year.

“The signing took place this Friday the Spotify Camp Nou offices in the presence of president Joan Laporta; first vice-president Rafa Yusta; Economic vice-president, Eduard Romeu and the director of the Area of Football, Anderson Luis de Souza, ‘Deco’.”


Xavi helped Barcelona reclaim La Liga from Real Madrid / Alex Caparros/GettyImages

Barcelona were keen to highlight Xavi’s commitment to promoting players from their La Masia youth academy, with various players of his first-team squad coming through the club’s ranks.

“Since becoming Barca coach, Xavi has given some 12 players from La Masia debuts. Aleix Garrido, Angel Alarcon, Chadi Riad, Marc Casado, Inaki Pena, Mika Marmol, Estanis Pedrola, Alvaro Sanz, Ferrant Jutgla, Ilias Akhomach, Lamine Yamal and Fermin Lopez have all appeared for the first team since November 2021,” they added.

“In Xavi’s 96 games as coach, he has won 60 games, drawn 17 and lost 19 as well as claiming the Spanish Super with a 3-1 win over Real Madrid in the final and the 2022/23 La Liga title.”


2023 MLS Cup playoffs: Who’s qualified for the postseason?

As the 2023 MLS regular season comes to a close, teams around the league have already qualified for the playoffs while others hope to do the same in the final stretch of the campaign.

It’s the time again when teams begin to nervously watch how other sides are doing around them in their respective tables as Decision Day looms in the background.

Several teams that have already punched their ticket to the postseason may look to give some of their star players rests in the coming games, while others aim to finish in a top-four spot to claim home field advantage.

Here’s all the teams that have qualified for 2023 MLS Cup playoffs…

Klauss, Tim Parker

MLS’ newest club are in the playoffs / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

They’ve done it: the league’s newest expansion side, St Louis City, have made it to the postseason.

St Louis has wasted no time in MLS as they’ve been off to a flying start in their first ever season, becoming the first side to reach the postseason in the Western Conference.

Players like Eduard Lowen and Nicholas Gioacchini have stepped up big at CITY Park and they’ll need more of the same from them as well as Joao Klauss to continue their magical first season run.

St Louis qualified for the postseason for the first time ever after their 0-0 draw with 2022 MLS Cup champions LAFC. Was it somehow a passing of the guard? Only time will tell.

Dániel Gazdag

Daniel Gazdag has been in top form / Omar Vega/GettyImages

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Philadelphia Union have qualified for MLS Cup playoffs.

That’s right, Jim Curtin’s side have booked their place in this year’s dance after a 2-2 draw with Charlotte FC. Dating back to 2018, the Union have now qualified for the playoffs for six consecutive seasons with head coach Curtin at the helm.

The Union have been inspired by performances from playmaker Daniel Gazdag, forwards Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre as well as the dynamic Kai Wagner.

Cucho Hernández

Columbus Crew are set for the playoffs / Kirk Irwin/GettyImages

Columbus Crew making it to the postseason always seemed as if it was a matter of when, not if.

Even after the departure of fan-favorite Lucas Zelarayan, the Crew haven’t skipped a beat. Juan ‘Cucho’ Hernandez has recorded hat-tricks in two out of three games played and amassed 13 goals and seven assists this term.

Should Hernandez remain in fine form alongside their plethora of attacking talent that boasts the likes of Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi and Julian Gressel, Columbus could be gearing up for a deep postseason run.

The Crew clinched a spot in the playoffs after triumphing 3-0 over Chicago Fire.

Facundo Torres

Facundo Torres has led the way for Orlando / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Although Orlando City are second in the Eastern Conference at the time of writing, they seem to have still gone under the radar in 2023 as they’ve come on strong in the last couple of months.

Facundo Torres has led the way for the Lions with 12 goals and three assists while the emergence of Duncan McGuire (eight goals, two assists) has been nothing short of impressive.

Despite their 2-0 loss at New York City FC, Orlando have punched their ticket to the playoffs.

Inter Miami CF v FC Cincinnati - Semifinals: 2023 U.S. Open Cup

FC Cincinnati are poised for a deep run / Michael Miller/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Who else other than FC Cincinnati to qualify for the playoffs first?

Pat Noonan’s side have been on an unbelievable tear in 2023, with Luciano ‘Lucho’ Acosta in MVP form with his 14 goals and eight assists. Brandon Vazquez has chipped in with six goals while wing-back Alvaro Barreal has dished out five assists.

It seems like the sky is the limit for Cincy as they have high hopes for capturing the Supporters’ Shield as well as MLS Cup. The Orange and Blue needed only 26 games to qualify for the playoffs after taking down Atlanta United 2-1 in late August.


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Ange Postecoglou vows to ‘scare life out of Arsenal’ in north London derby

Tottenham Hotspur head coach Ange Postecoglou has insisted he will not change anything about his tactics heading into the north London derby, vowing to “scare the life” out of Arsenal.

Spurs have been one of the Premier League’s top sides this season, sitting second in the standings with four wins and one draw from Postecoglou’s first five league games in charge.

With recent victories coming over Bournemouth, Burnley and Sheffield United, Postecoglou was asked whether he would need to do anything different tactically to prepare for a threat like Arsenal.

“In terms of the way we play, we’re not changing, mate,” he told a fans’ forum. “We’ll go out and scare the life out of them.”

The game will be Postecoglou’s first taste of the north London derby but the Spurs boss is no stranger to high-profile rivalries, having led Celtic to six wins from a possible 11 against Old Firm rivals Rangers.

Ange Postecoglou

Postecoglou is no stranger to fierce rivalries / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

“I’m well aware of obviously the [north London] rivalry and you take that into account because it means so much to supporters,” he explained.

“Being Celtic manager, there really was only one result the supporters were interested in. Every time I opened my door, I could tell if the Amazon guy was a Rangers or Celtic supporter, depending on how he delivered the package! He either threw it at me or wanted a selfie! So you understand that.

“I love that, that’s the beauty of the game. It’s the passion it brings. People feel like their football club is an extension of their family and they want to protect that, want to make sure every week when they go into battle we come out victors, particularly against our rivals.

“It’s a big game, a great test for us as a group, particularly away from home. We’ve already had great challenges away from home. I’m excited by it, I’m looking forward to it. That’s why we do what we do.

“We want to be involved in big games, overcome the challenges before us. We’ll go there and play our football and see where that takes us.”


Why David Raya started instead of Aaron Ramsdale in the Champions League

Mikel Arteta played down the significance of David Raya’s selection over Aaron Rasmdale in the aftermath of Arsenal’s 4-0 Champions League win over PSV Eindhoven.

The Gunners ran out clear and deserving winners in north London, overwhelming their Dutch opponents thanks to a first-half goal blitz from Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Jesus.

Martin Odegaard added gloss to the scoreline with a fourth goal 20 minutes from time, sealing all three points for Arsenal in their first Group B game, and they top the table after matchday one following Lens’ 1-1 draw with Sevilla.

Much of the talk before the game was focused on Arteta’s selection of Raya for Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Everton on Sunday – the Spaniard drafted in for his first start at the expense of long-time number one Ramsdale.

There was uncertainty over who would be between the sticks for Arsenal’s European voyage, and it was Raya who got the nod when the starting lineups were confirmed. The former Brentford stopper kept a second consecutive sheet, but Arteta was keen to play down the reasons for his selection during his post-match press conference.

“It’s a belief that I had in the team I wanted to play against the expected opponent,” Arteta said of his decision to pick Raya. “Not only that, I made the other changes for the same reason.

“Obviously every opponent brings different challenges,” Arteta continued when asked about playing a PSV side more willing to play on the front foot. “When you score early in the game that helps and that hasn’t been the case too much this season. That’s why we’ve had to face teams in other ways as well. But certainly when you see this team running and being full of pace and being vertical, it’s a joy to watch.”

Martin Odegaard

Martin Odegaard celebrates Arsenal’s fourth goal of the night / Julian Finney/GettyImages


It was a night of heightened emotion at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal returned to Champions League action for the first time in six years, and the magnitude of the occasion wasn’t lost on Arteta, who spoke of his emotion at leading the club back into the top tier of European football.

“It was a beautiful night after such a long time,” he continued. “We wanted to produce the right performance to win the game. It was great to see the atmosphere and the Champions League music. Everyone was getting a bit emotional before it. We showed in both boxes today I think we were exceptional. That was the difference today I think.

“I was [emotional] yeah. I was really excited about it. I wanted to control and not show that too much, but I was really excited. The journey started last year when we earned the right to be in this competition which is where we have to be as a club. Now we have to produce what we have to produce to stay at this level.”

Arteta also reserved praise for the much-maligned Kai Havertz, who returned to the starting lineup after dropping to the bench at Goodison Park. He said of the German’s performance: “He was really connected today in the game.

“It’s true I asked him to play two different roles in regards to the behaviors of the opponents and he’s so intelligent that he does it. It’s just finishing one or two actions that we had but it’s coming in and he’s so willing to do it.”


Virgil van Dijk makes Europa League vow ahead of LASK opener

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk has admitted the Reds are looking to win the Europa League, confessing they “did not deserve” a spot in this season’s Champions League.

A bitterly disappointing 2022/23 campaign saw Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2016/17, forcing Jurgen Klopp’s side to accept a place in the Europa League – a competition which brings famously gruelling travel schedules and an increased number of games.

Their campaign kicks off against Austrian side LASK on Thursday, before which Van Dijk made it clear Liverpool are looking to go all the way.

“We all wanted before the season ended last year to be in the Champions League,” he said. “That’s what we fought for but, unfortunately, we didn’t deserve it.

“What we deserved was the Europa League so we’re going to give it everything that we have – and we want to give it everything we have. We want to try to win it, but it doesn’t happen overnight so we have to work for it and that starts [against LASK].”

Jurgen Klopp

Klopp took Liverpool to the Europa League final in 2016 / Dennis Grombkowski/GettyImages

The Europa League is the only major competition Klopp has not won during his time at Liverpool and the boss echoed Van Dijk’s desire to get his hands on the trophy.

“We are here to compete, not to give opportunities,” he told a press conference. “My first year I thought the Europa League was a bit too much for us until we got to the final. We had to fly to Russia, played on a frozen pitch in Sion.

“That was a different squad. We were not ready and we came through somehow. I don’t think we were exceptional until the quarter-final, semi-final.

“It is a different time, a different team. We are better prepared. We enjoy it more to be here because we had no clue at that time what to expect.

“We have to be motivated and we are excited to play in the Europa League. I didn’t watch the Champions League [this week], I didn’t miss the anthem.”