Football

Enrique wants Barca to draw strength from Euro exit

Barca boss shrugs off exit to focus on La Liga showdown with Real Madrid

Luis Enrique insists his final season in charge can still end in glory despite Barcelona's Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Juventus.

Juventus held on to their 3-0 first-leg lead to progress to the last four by blunting Barca's star-studded attack in a 0-0 draw yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Neymar left the field in tears but, around the Nou Camp, there was appreciation for Barca's valiant effort by the near-100,000 crowd.

"It's a sad night, but we tried until the last minute and that was recognised by the fans at the end," said Enrique, who will step down at the end of the campaign.

"This is (a) team that never gives up, that fights for every title, doesn't relax and always accepts the challenge.

"It is a joy to belong to a club like this."

Barca travel to face eternal rivals Real Madrid in El Clasico on Monday morning, needing to win to keep alive their hopes of a third straight La Liga title.

Real lead by three points at the top of the table and also have a game in hand.

Said Enrique, whose side will also face Alaves in next month's Copa del Rey final: "Barca have a team built to compete, to win trophies and to face every challenge.

"It is clear we are very hurt to be eliminated from a competition that excites us so much, but now comes a key game against the leaders and a direct rival. We have to get ready to compete and I am sure we will do that."

Barca, who will be without Neymar through suspension, will need Lionel Messi back in top form.

OFF TARGET

The Argentinian was off-target with the only two clear 
chances the hosts created yesterday morning.

"We had 13 or 14 shots, but I think only one was on target, which are the ones that tend to do damage," added Enrique.

He acknowledged that the damage was all inflicted in the first leg, when Paulo Dybala's double and a Giorgio Chiellini header in Turin left Barca with a near-impossible task.

Enrique said: "I will remember what happened in the first half in the Juventus Stadium for a very long time.

"Our participation in this tournament this season has been unforgettable, but we had a very poor first half in Turin and that has cost us dear."

Barca defender Gerard Pique was graceful in defeat, and recognised that Juventus were deserving winners.

"Overall, they were the better team and deserved to go through," he told beIN Sports Spain.

"Little by little, we started to create chances, but they built a mountain. It wasn't to be."

Pique also called on the Barca players to reward the fans' support with victory in the Clasico.

He added: "That the fans were still singing needs to be remembered.

"I think it is one of the few times I have seen the Nou Camp like that in a defeat. It moved me and makes me proud.

"We will go to the Bernabeu to compete and try to win.

"In the last few years, it has been good to us. We are not in our best moment, but we can win." - WIRE SERVICES

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