Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández is fighting to keep the players onside with a section of the first-team squad losing faith in him, several sources have told ESPN.

Barça were beaten 4-1 by Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa final on Sunday, but sources say the disillusionment predates that humbling Clásico defeat in Saudi Arabia.

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Several players have been questioning the team's approach for a while. They are also annoyed that Xavi said they have not been able to adapt to Barça's style of play.

One source said not all the players share the same opinion, but that some feel he has not been as tough on certain members of the squad.

A source close to Xavi insists the coach's feeling is that the players are still with him while acknowledging there is always the possibility someone is unhappy within a 20-player squad.

Xavi cut a frustrated figure during much of Barcelona's humbling defeat to Real Madrid on Sunday. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images

They recognise results have not been as expected so far this season, but say Xavi has been happy with the behaviour and attitude shown by the entire team. The 3-2 win over Almeria before Christmas was labelled by one source as a "turning point" in the relationship between the players and the manager.

Xavi said after that game that he gave his harshest-ever team talk at half-time as Barça laboured to a victory with an 83rd-minute winner from Sergi Roberto against LaLiga's bottom club, who remain winless this season.

However, while that moment has been singled out, doubts set in before as Barça suffered defeats in LaLiga against Madrid and Girona and in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp.

Xavi has said in several news conferences that he believes the relationship with his players remains positive. Speaking after the defeat to Madrid on Sunday, he said he still believes in them and is convinced they can turn the season around.

Meanwhile, sporting director Deco said it made "no sense" to question Xavi's future, adding that the coach, who recently signed a new deal until 2025, retained the club's support.

However, sources consulted by ESPN have not been as forthright, conceding that there are doubts surrounding Xavi's future beyond this season, despite that contract renewal.

That suggests confidence is waning, but Barça's financial fair play situation makes dismissing Xavi and appointing a replacement difficult, while there are also a lack of obvious candidates to turn to in the short term.

Sources added that should Xavi end up leaving before the end of the season, Barça Atletic coach and former Mexico international Rafa Marquez is president Joan Laporta's preferred option to replace him on an interim basis.

Sunday's defeat to Madrid magnified Barça's recent poor performances, which have not always been punished in terms of results but have been criticised by the local media.

They have fallen eight points behind LaLiga leaders Girona, who have played a game more, and are seven adrift of Madrid, who sit second.

However, they remain alive in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. They travel to third-tier Unionistas de Salamanca in the round of 16 of the Copa on Thursday and face Napoli at the same stage in Europe next month.

Xavi, who spent over 20 years as a player at Barça, took over the Catalan club in 2021 and led them to their first league title since 2019 last year in what was his first full season in charge.