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Sergio Busquets would not be drawn into using the spat between Lionel Messi and Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal as an excuse for the club’s Copa del Rey exit on Thursday.
Barca were stunned by Athletic Bilbao in the quarter-finals when the hosts won 1-0 at the San Mames Stadium thanks to a stoppage-time own goal.
Unfortunately for Busquets, he was the man to turn into his own net under pressure from Inaki Williams.
It compounded Barca’s misery in a week when Messi responded publicly and angrily to some ill-advised Abidal comments about the circumstances of Ernesto Valverde’s January exit from the Camp Nou:
Having the club captain and sporting director at loggerheads was hardly ideal preparation for one of Barca’s biggest games of the season so far.
But Busquets, 31, refused to blame off-field issues for Barcelona’s defeat, per Malik Ouzia of the Evening Standard:
“We are just focused on the sporting side of things. It’s a sad day for everyone. We didn’t want to go out. We have two competitions left, we have to keep on fighting. We have to continue. Everyone’s angry. We did things well.”
Since succeeding Valverde in the top job at the Camp Nou, Quique Setien has overseen some variable performances.
The Blaugrana were outplayed in losing 2-0 to Valencia in La Liga, which has led to them dropping three points back from Real Madrid in the title race, and only a late Antoine Griezmann double saved their blushes in the third round of the Copa at third-tier Ibiza.
Against Athletic, though, Barca performed fairly well and arguably did not deserve to be knocked out:
As far as Setien was concerned, it was a sign his side are headed in the right direction:
The 61-year-old will look to build on that decent performance when Barca visit Real Betis on Sunday in La Liga