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Every FC Barcelona player will have had his own reasons to feel the pain of elimination from the UEFA Champions League semi-finals at the hands of Chelsea FC.
Lionel Messi missed a penalty and hit a post, Victor Valdés could do nothing about the two goals he conceded to Ramires and Fernando Torres, while Gerard Piqué ended up in hospital under observation for the thumping knock to the head he received in colliding with his own goalkeeper. Cesc Fàbregas, though, came home to Barcelona, partly, to win the tournament of which Barça deprived him when he was part of the 2006 Arsenal FC side beaten in the Paris final.
His closest friends, Piqué and Messi, both have three medals from the Champions League and it will no doubt gall Fàbregas to go out to a side who were his London rivals while at Arsenal. However, Fàbregas is a leader in the defeated dressing room and took responsibility for fronting up to the surprise loss which, when Barça were 2-0 up and playing ten men after John Terry's red card, seemed less than likely.
Fàbregas said: "Everyone saw the game and they can draw their own conclusions. First of all I congratulate them. Chelsea are in another final and I wish them all the best. We have to talk about how we played. But we knew that if we were to lose then it should be in this manner because we wanted to be sure that we stuck to our style.
"Evidently we created a lot of chances. I think we deserved to go through because we were far superior to them. But football is sometimes unfair and this time Chelsea are in the final instead. I say again that I wish them all the best."
Much has been written about this Josep Guardiola era, which has yielded two UEFA Champions League victories and five consecutive semi-final appearances. But the central players still yearn for greatness and an appreciation from fans all around the world that they play special football. So the task now, beyond analysing this surprise elimination and attempting to win Spain's Copa del Rey against Athletic Club next month, is to dust themselves down and demonstrate their hunger.
"This club is a great one and will be back with more desire and strength," Fàbregas said. "It's a big blow to us all, but these players have shown so much in the past. When we lost in the Copa final to Madrid last season and when we lost to Inter in the 2010 semi-finals it has always been the case that this group reacts, lifts its morale and comes back better."
He added: "The fans were incredible tonight. During the 24 years of my life I've never seen a team supported in defeat like that. I'm very proud to be from this club, to be a culé. Now we have to think about those games which remain in the Liga, keep in form and plan how to win the Spanish Copa final because it is a very important title."
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