FC Barcelona host Villarreal on Sunday at 4.00pm CET, and first team manager Luis Enrique knows it won’t be easy game against a side that is just four points adrift of the top two, his own side and Real Madrid. “They are what we could consider one of the more difficult opponents” he told his Saturday press conference. “Because of the football they play, their place in the table, and because they’re never easy to play against. Last season’s games in the league and cup were difficult, we know we are going to have to work very hard tomorrow and be at our best.”
This is the last of a hectic series of games before most of the players will be going away on international duty. But Luis Enrique doesn’t see any reason why that should imply any loss of concentration. “There’s no need to tell the players to keep their minds on Villarreal” he insisted. “They know perfectly well that if you drop your guard against a team like that, then they’ll run all over you.”
He was, however, asked about the big Argentina v Brazil World Cup qualifier on Thursday, and answered that because it was a 1.00am kick-off local time, it was on a bit too late for him to stay up and watch. “But I might make an exception for this one” he smiled.
Injuries naturally came up in conversation, and the general mood is that despite star player Leo Messi being out of action, the team has continued to produce excellent results. “It would be foolish to say that we aren’t stronger with Messi in the team” confessed the Asturian. “But we’re showing that we have plenty of resources. We have been able to pull through thanks to everyone, from the defence to the attack.”
Questions were being asked early on the season about Barça’s defence, but three consecutive clean sheets seem to have silenced the critics. “Whenever we let in goals, we analyse how opponents were able to get them” explained Luis Enrique. “It’s a question of fine-tuning things. We’re doing great at the back right now, but that doesn’t mean we’ve solved the problem. We still need to improve and we’re working on that.”
Trip to Port Aventura
The FCB boss was also asked about his idea to take the team and their families to Port Aventura theme park instead of training on Friday. “These things are about team-building and bonding” he explained. “Ever since I’ve been a manager I’ve liked to do things like this because I think they’re important for team spirit. And it was nice for them to bring along their families because it helps to make us stronger as a unit.”