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The Spain international has issued a rallying-call to his Blaugrana team-mates to hit the ground running as they look to retain their Primera Division title

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez believes a strong start to the campaign is essential if the Catalans are to retain their Liga title this season.

The Blaugrana hit the ground running last term, fully exploiting Real Madrid's initially patchy form, and ultimately finished 15 points clear of their great rivals.

However, newly-appointed Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti has spent in excess of €60 million on Isco and Asier Illarramendi this summer, and Xavi has warned his team-mates they can ill-afford to expect a similar head-start this time around.

"We felt good both in the training sessions and in the game,” the Spain international told reporters.

“The players who went to the Confederations Cup have trained with the team for two weeks, and the rest of the players have been at it for three. Little by little we’re getting into optimal shape.

“We have to focus on the first match of the Liga so that we can get a good start to the season and reach the objectives we’ve set out for ourselves.”

The Blaugrana kick off the defence of their Liga crown by hosting Levante at Camp Nou next Sunday, while the Blancos welcome Real Betis to the Spanish capital on the same day.

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