NAPLES, Italy — Midfielder Sergio Busquets criticised Barcelona for being shortsighted with their squad planning after the Catalans were held to a 1-1 draw by Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.
Busquets was booked in the second half and will be suspended for the return leg at Camp Nou on March 18. Teammate Arturo Vidal will also sit that game out after getting sent off at the Stadio San Paolo late on, while Gerard Pique limped off with an ankle problem in stoppage time.
Barca’s small squad was already stretched. Long-term absentees Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez are unlikely to feature again this season and Barcelona manager Quique Setien named four B team players on the bench against Napoli just to make up the numbers.
“[Nelson] Semedo and I were one booking away from a ban so we were always running that risk [of suspension],” Busquets told reporters after the game.
“We hope Pique’s injury is nothing serious but we will take on the second leg with what we have. We don’t have a deep squad because, unfortunately, that’s how it was planned.”
Ivan Rakitic also suggested Barca had failed to put together a big enough squad as the cracks between the players and the club were revealed again after Lionel Messi‘s war of words with sporting director Eric Abidal last month.
The first-team, including Barca B winger Ansu Fati, is made up of just 20 players.
“We have a short squad but those that are in charge knew that,” the Croatian midfielder said. “The solution is what it is. Those that are available will have work really hard because we have an important match in the second leg.”
Pique will undergo tests on an ankle injury on Thursday, sources told ESPN, as Barca hope to have the defender available for Sunday’s top of the table clash against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“We can win La Liga and the Champions League,” the coach said as he tried to put a positive spin on the 1-1 draw and the loss of key players. “It’s true we’ve lost Busquets and Vidal for the return game but we will recover Alba and Roberto.
“I’m one of those people that looks at things optimistically. We don’t have many players, but there’s no point complaining about it.”
Antoine Griezmann cancelled out Dries Mertens‘ first-half opener against Napoli as Barca’s poor form on the road in the Champions League knockout stages continued. It is now just one win in nine games.
“It was tough to create because they defended really well and took their only chance [in the first half],” he added. “The game opened up in the second half, there was more space and we were able to do some damage. It’s a good result.”