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Barcelona must continue to look forward despite European exit

Game of two halves...

Manchester United v FC Barcelona - UEFA Europa League Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

It’s rare that the sequel is as good as the original, but this Europa League play-off second leg certainly gave last week’s 90 minutes a run for the money.

Both sides came out of the blocks just as they had at the Camp Nou, with no quarter once again being asked or given.

This is exactly what top level football should look like with no sitting back and defending whilst hoping to nick something on the break. Two attacking sides… attacking.

It made for another absorbing spectacle and one that Barca were, ultimately, unable to emerge victorious in.

It wasn’t for the want of trying, however, with Sergio Busquets - the player who has completed over 29,000 passes since his debut in 2008 (roughly 5,000 more than any other player in the top five European leagues in the same time frame) - pulling the strings for the visitors.

Manchester United v FC Barcelona: Knockout Round Play-Off Leg Two - UEFA Europa League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

How he, the footballer’s footballer, deserves another European hurrah in the blaugrana.

On the night he finished on the losing side, though it’s fair to speculate that with the likes of Gavi, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele in situ, this second leg would surely have been put to bed by half time.

That will be no consolation for Xavi of course. An emerging coach who needs to learn his trade in double quick time.

He’s certainly capable of doing just that as Barca’s ascendency in La Liga - surely a better barometer of where a team are at - proves. Another failure in a ‘big’ game is unlikely to sit well with the hierarchy mind.

Manchester United v FC Barcelona - UEFA Europa League Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

With no more financial levers to pull, the sales of Raphinha, Franck Kessie, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres seem more of a certainty this summer than a probability.

Knee jerk reactions after the defeat aren’t helpful though, even if there’s likely to be a keenness from the point of view of culers to apportion blame.

There’s still the Copa del Rey to fight for, as well as the league, the latter of which only a brave man would bet against Barca seeing through at this point.

A long way to go yes, but seven goals conceded so far and eight points ahead of the chasing pack puts the Catalans in the strongest of positions.

Injuries notwithstanding, a decent result in the league Clasico could be the beginning of a procession to the title.

With so much still to play for, now is not the time to pore over the minutiae, but to get behind the team. Viscaaaa!

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