Xavi says Barcelona are 'much better' than last season despite early Europa League exit to Man Utd
- Barcelona crashed out of Europa League
- Succumbed to United at Old Trafford
- Yet Xavi insists Barcelona have improved
WHAT HAPPENED? Robert Lewandowski's 17th-minute penalty gave Barcelona the lead in the tie, but goals from Fred and Antony in the second half saw United knock out the La Liga giants from this edition of the Europa League. The Blaugrana have struggled to find success in the last couple of seasons in Europe and had to settle for a Europa League berth after failing to make it out of the group stages of the Champions League. They were ousted by Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals last April and this time they failed to make it to the last 16. Yet, Xavi remains adamant that his troops have been playing better football than last season.
WHAT THEY SAID: "We have been much better than last season," Xavi said after the loss.
"We came up against Bayern [Munich], Inter and Man Utd this time. These are big, powerful sides, but we were not good enough. We have improved, but it wasn't enough. We will try again. We will be self-critical and try to be more competitive and look to improve in Europe."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: The Spaniard opined that Fred's equaliser just in the first few minutes of the second half was the turning point in the match and also admitted to missing Pedri and Gavi in midfield. "Their first goal did a lot of damage to us, coming from a 50-50 ball which we lost. We lost the individual duels in the second half. United played with a lot of intensity. It was more down to us, we lacked patience in the second half. If Pedri and Gavi are playing, I think the second half could have been different. It's not looking for excuses, but the pause they play with, how they turn. It allows you to play in the opponent's half. Sergi Roberto was good. [Franck] Kessie very good, like Frenkie [de Jong]. But for the way we play, they would have been really good for us here. That said, the first half was excellent and it's a shame we are out," he added.
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WHAT NEXT FOR BARCELONA? The Blaugrana will be back in action on Sunday against Almeria in La Liga.