Manchester United V Barcelona in pictures
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Barcelona’s players are adamant that they would have progressed to the Europa League round of 16 at the expense of Manchester United if three more of their stars were available to play at Old Trafford, according to reports. The Red Devils ultimately managed to see off the challenge posed by their Spanish opponents thanks to Antony’s second-half winner on Thursday night, which wrapped up a 4-3 victory on aggregate over the two legs of their last-32 tie.
The second leg at Old Trafford was a game of fine margins, with Barcelona opening the scoring thanks to an early Robert Lewandowski spot-kick before goals from Fred and Antony sent United through to the next round after a 2-2 draw in last week’s first leg at the Nou Camp. The occasion also saw Barcelona dumped out of the Europa League for the second season in a row but their players are said to be ‘convinced’ that things would have gone differently if they had three extra players available for selection.
That’s according to Sport, who are reporting that the general consensus in the dressing room is that Barcelona would have won if Gavi, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele had played against United on Thursday evening. Gavi was suspended for the match due to an accumulation of yellow cards, while Pedri and Dembele were nursing injuries that ruled them out of contention to appear in the fixture.
It is also said that Barcelona’s players were generally pleased with their efforts against United in spite of their obvious disappointment at being eliminated from the Europa League in the first knockout round. They believe that football has been ‘very cruel’ to them over the course of this season and feel they were unlucky to be drawn into a difficult Champions League group before coming up against United in Europe’s second-tier club competition.
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However, those at Barcelona are determined to use their apparent misfortune as extra motivation to concentrate all their efforts on winning La Liga and the Copa del Rey in order to avoid ending the season with nothing to show for it. Barcelona boss Xavi revealed after Thursday’s game that he was bitterly disappointed to have been knocked out of the Europa League once again, blaming his team’s exit on the finer details not always going their way.
“It is a very big disappointment, the parties in Europe are decided by small details and we have not controlled them, that is why we are out,” Xavi told reporters in his post-match press conference.
“The feeling is that we have been much better than last season, but we have lost against Bayern, Inter, Manchester. We have not made the grade. We have to try to be more competitive and make an important self-criticism to try it the season that comes.
“The first goal hurts us. In the divided balls and in the duels it has cost us. They are a very intense team. At the Camp Nou and here the tie has been very even and at times we have been very good but it could not be. It’s a shame because the team has shown its face and deserved more.
“They [United] are physically very strong. Shaw won the match on the second goal and after two rebounds it came to Antony. We could have dominated the game more. The only positive thing is that on Sunday we already have a game and we have to focus on Almeria [in La Liga] and on Thursday in the cup semi-final.”
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