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By ESPN Staff

Laporta defends policy for Copa Catalunya

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has defended coach Pep Guardiola's decision to field the club's reserve team in the Copa Catalunya.

Barca Atletic lost 3-1 at Sant Andreu on Tuesday night but home fans and officials were left irate by the lack of any of the club's Primera Liga stars.

However, in a week of internationals and with their second Primera Liga game of the season this weekend. Laporta insists the club had no choice.

"We're very upset about what happened because we wanted to come with the first team but it couldn't be," Laporta told Televisio de Catalunya. "It's not an easy situation to hear insults but we're only defending our sporting interests.

"I'm sure that the Barca fans understand our position because it is a very difficult year, we have a new team and very important game are coming up against Racing and Sporting Lisbon."

Espanyol and Barca, the two Primera Liga sides from Catalunya, only join the competition at the semi-final stage to try to avert such problems, but that did not prove possible this year.

Some reports even suggested that Barca had ignored a gentleman's agreement to field a minimum number of first-team players, a notion Laporta rubbished.

"That pact doesn't exits," he added. "We already told the Catalan Federation that it wouldn't be easy to play this tournament if it coincided with the FIFA dates as it did."

His words will come as little comfort to the thousands of fans, frustrated at having their hopes of seeing Barca stars dashed.

Banners against the club were displayed, one of them with the words 'Laporta + Guardiola = total failure' while chants and jeers rang out during and after the match, with fans screaming 'Is Barca Catalan? Barca Yes, Laporta No'.

Before the game the town's mayor slammed the Catalan giants' decision, launching an astonishing broadside at the club.

"The people here feel scorned," said Miquel Alonso. "We knew that they would play little, but we hoped that at least they would play a few minutes and that the children could see their idols and ask them for some autographs.

"Some of them wait their whole life without being able to see any one of them.

"I don't think that by playing 15 minutes there would have been risk of an injury. If Barca would earn a million euros for playing this game, they would be here in Sant Carles de la Rapita.

"Guardiola has devalued this competition a lot. His decision has put down people's spirits a bit. Some have even returned their tickets."

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