The FC Barcelona head coach speaks to the media at the Ciutat Esportiva ahead of Wednesday's Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg at Camp Nou
With FC Barcelona about to face Athletic Club Bilbao for the sixth time this season — they’ve played twice in the Spanish Super Cup (here and here), twice in La Liga (here and here), and once so far in the Copa del Rey (here) — one would think that there are few, if any, questions left to ask.
Nevertheless, with a little over 24 hours ahead of Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg, Luis Enrique was back in front of the microphone.
The reporters on hand, however, did manage to find new ways to query the Barça coach. Some of their questions revolved around Wednesday’s game, some around last Saturday’s game, some around next Saturday’s game and, not surprisingly there were even questions about individual players and, drumroll…the coach himself.
Here are the highlights of what Luis Enrique had to say:
On Wednesday’s game against Athletic:
“I'm expecting the same Athletic we saw in the first leg. Maybe even more dangerous."
“They’re going to need to attack because a scoreless draw will be no good to them.”
“Even if we hadn’t conceded that late goal in the first leg this would still be a closely disputed tie.”
“Our objective is to go out and win the game.”
On the upcoming Liga match versus Atlético:
"The Athletic Club game is the only one we're focused on. The other game we can think about afterwards."
On the race for the league title:
“We’ll all continue dropping points, that’s logical. It’s a tight fixture list, we’re not machines. We’re football players. There are going to be surprises.”
“He’s fine. We won’t take any risks, but he’s been training and he’s in perfect condition.”
On Thomas Vermaelen:
“It wasn’t just him, it was the whole team that played poorly in the first half last weekend, you don’t have to pick out individuals. This is a team sport. I think Vermaelen is as confident as he has been all season, which is very confident.”
On the 24 game unbeaten streak:
“It means we're consistent, and if that helps you win titles then that’s great, but everything has yet to be decided. We’re still in all three competitions. We’re now coming into the key phases of those competitions. Whether we’ve won 24 games or 28 games or 15 games, that doesn’t matter.”
On the condition of the players:
“We’re playing a lot of games. Players are amassing minutes. I think we have a lot of resources and different solutions at different positions, but of course I’m concerned, we’ve had some very intense games. But that’s why we are where we are and we’re still in contention for the titles.”
On Mascherano being the only player who has played all five games this season against Bilbao:
“He’s a key player, just look at the number of minutes he’s played this season and what he’s contributed. He’s a top-quality player. He gives us extra intensity, excellent ball distribution, extra personality, he’s a very important player for us.”
On whether the team’s tactics change with or without Neymar:
“No. We play the same way. Obviously he has a certain profile at a certain position and that changes the way things go. Our philosophy doesn’t change; we try to control the ball and pressure all over the field. But, obviously, certain players make a difference.”
On which footballer he would like to be reincarnated as:
“Good question! I’d be happy to be any Barça football player, but also [my hometown team] Sporting Gijón, why not?”