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Barcelona will make their first appearance without Ronald Koeman against Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, hoping to cut the gap on the top four in La Liga and regain confidence ahead of a Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev

Barcelona face Deportivo Alaves on Saturday in their first match without Ronald Koeman, as they attempt to cut the gap on La Liga’s top four and regain confidence ahead of a Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev.

Ronald Koeman, the manager of FC Barcelona, has announced that he would quit the club with immediate effect. The 58-year-old is stepping down following a string of dismal defeats, the most recent of which came away at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday evening after losing the ElClasico against Real Madrid the weekend before.

Xavi Hernandez is probably very close to being named as Koeman’s replacement, although the club’s greatest midfielder is unlikely to return until the weekend. Nonetheless, the possibility of Xavi returning to the club he joined as an 11-year-old and left in 2015 should generate interest of enthusiasm among the players and supporters.

On Thursday afternoon, Barjuan oversaw training, during which Barcelona president Joan Laporta addressed the team, explaining the decision to dismiss Koeman and emphasising that it is now up to them to inspire a comeback.

“We’re all in the same boat here,” Sergio Busquets said on Wednesday night. “It’s everyone’s fault. For good and bad, we’re a team and we have to show it on the pitch.”

Barca is now in ninth place in the league, six points behind Real Betis in fourth. The growing threat of missing out on next season’s Champions League was just about certainly a factor in Koeman’s resignation.

Finishing in the top four will be Koeman’s primary aim, but the squad’s other major goal will be to reach the Champions League knockout round this season, after straight 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica put the team on the verge of being eliminated early.

Barca’s 1-0 win against Dynamo last week gave them confidence, but they’ll need another win in Kiev on Tuesday against the worst club in Group B if they want to follow Benfica.

Frenkie de Jong, Ronald Araujo, and Pedri are all doubtful for Alaves, who are coming off back-to-back victories over Cadiz and Elche. After missing the defeat by Rayo, Ansu Fati might return, with Sergio Aguero poised to continue in attack.

Real Madrid’s goalless draw versus Osasuna at home on Wednesday was overshadowed by Koeman’s resignation, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side squandered an opportunity to go two points ahead at the top of the league.

“You might think I’m crazy but I liked the way we played,” said Ancelotti after being held by Osasuna.

“The first half, not so much, but in the second half, much better. I have nothing to criticise my players for.”

Instead, Madrid are 3 points behind Real Sociedad, who have lost only one of their opening 11 games. They host Basque rivals Athletic Club on Sunday.

Sevilla and Betis in third and fourth face each other next weekend in a much-anticipated Seville derby that for once should have a bearing on the top of the table.

Before that, Sevilla hosts Osasuna, while Betis travels to Atletico Madrid, who are five points behind the leaders following a 2-2 draw with Levante on Thursday. On Wednesday, Atleti will play Liverpool in the Champions League at Anfield.

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