Football

Enrique in the firing line

Barca midfielder Busquets blames coach's lack of preparation for PSG rout

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique floundered in the firing line yesterday morning (Singapore time) after what he called a "disastrous" 4-0 defeat by Paris St Germain left the Spanish champions on the brink of their earliest Champions League exit in a decade.

Enrique confronted a television reporter working for Catalan station TV3 after the match, while his tactics were criticised by Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets.

"It wasn't an attitude problem, but a football one. They (PSG) played much better than us and they overwhelmed us physically," Busquets told Catalan television network TV3.

"They pressed us harder, they were much better tactically than us, they had a plan and executed it how they wanted to and they were the better team."

The midfielder also appeared to criticise the team's preparation for the game, adding: "We expected something else, but that's what can happen.

"We hope to be able to turn things around at the Nou Camp, but I can't lie, it's very difficult."

Barcelona sports daily Sport's front cover said "This is not Barca", while Madrid-based AS's headline ran "Total disaster".

Sport described Barca as a "shipwreck without a coach".

"Barca fell in Paris without grandeur and without excuses," continued Sport's editorial.

"It was a tumultuous fall, from the first minute to the last... more than an accident, it manifested itself as an aggravation of many problems, some latent and others evident, that had already been shown up throughout the season."

The joint-heaviest defeat in Enrique's three seasons in charge means they are likely to miss out on the quarter-finals for the first time since losing on away goals to Liverpool in the last 16 in 2006/07.

GORY

"It was a disastrous night for us in which we were clearly inferior," said Enrique.

"I accept responsibility, but I would also like the same respect and personal treatment in the interviews when we win," Enrique said in a fiery interview with TV3.

Enrique's future at the Nou Camp beyond the current campaign was already in doubt as his contract expires at the end of the season. Barcelona also trail Real Madrid in the race for the La Liga title.

Enrique's preference for Portugal international Andre Gomes in midfield has been a particular bugbear for the press.

Gomes missed a huge chance to level with the score at 1-0 midway through the first half.

Yet, humiliation in Paris laid bare broader failings in Barca's season on and off the field, from the president to the players.

Gomes was the most expensive of six summer recruits costing over 120 million euros (S$180m) who were signed to add depth and youth to the squad.

Yet, none of them have made a significant impression with Barca still reliant on an ageing core of Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and Busquets, alongside the starting front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Meanwhile, suitable replacements for the departed Dani Alves and Xavi Hernandez from the Barca sides that won trebles under Pep Guardiola in 2009 and in Enrique's first season in 2015 have yet to be found.

The punishment dished out to Enrique was only further evidenced by the praise lavished on PSG coach Unai Emery in his homeland.

GLORY

Emery guided Sevilla to Europa League glory in each of the past three seasons and once again proved his worth on the European stage despite having managed just one win over Barca in his previous 23 attempts with Sevilla and Valencia.

"The Sheikh signed him for this," said Marca. "What Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc couldn't do, Unai has within his grasp - eliminating Messi's Barca from the European Cup." - WIRE SERVICES

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