BARCELONA (AFP) – Barcelona boss Luis Enrique insists his final season in charge can still end in glory despite bowing out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage to Juventus.
Juventus held onto their 3-0 first leg lead to progress to the last four by blunting Barca’s star-studded attack in a 0-0 draw on Wednesday.
Neymar (PIX, AFP) left the field in tears, but around the Camp Nou 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 Sunday realistically needing to win to maintain their hopes of a third straight La Liga title.
Madrid lead by three points at the top of the table, but also have a game in hand.
“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 will be without Neymar at the Bernabeu through suspension and the Catalans will need Lionel Messi back in top form as the Argentine was off target with the only two clear chances the hosts created on Wednesday.
“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.
Juventus are now in the last four for the second time in three years under coach Massimiliano Allegri.
However, he believes they are far more equipped to win the Champions League for a third time than when they lost to Barca in the final two years ago.
“The self-belief of the team has grown a lot,” said Allegri.
“There are only two players who started tonight who started the final in Berlin.
“That says a lot of how well the club has recruited.
“We are desperate to go as far as we can and achieve something extraordinary.”
Barca defender Gerard Pique recognised that Juventus had deserved to go through over the two legs.
“Overall they were the better team and deserved to go through,” he said. “Little-by-little we started to create chances, but they built a mountain.”