It’s been almost four months since FC Barcelona played a game that mattered so little.
Since beating Sampdoria in the unofficial Joan Gamper Trophy on 10 August — their final game of the preseason — Luis Enrique and his men have faced a relentless barrage of high-pressure matches, including two in the Spanish Super Cup, 14 in La Liga, five in the UEFA Champions League, and one in the Copa del Rey.
Tuesday, however, the Blaugrana side will have a brief respite, having already clinched top spot in Group C.
“This one’s to have fun with the fans,” said Luis Enrique at his Monday press conference. “We can use different players, rest others, and even try some different things on the field.”
Other than the fact that he’s approaching this game “with the good of the team in mind” and that Leo Messi would start, the Barça manager recognized that while insignificant from a mathematical standpoint, the game was not totally devoid of meaning.
“Winning is always the best medicine,” he said. "The final score may not have any bearing [on the competition], but it’s important to win to ease doubts and improve morale.”
Here are the highlights of what he had to say.
On the team’s goals for the season:
“Our plan is to stay alive in all competitions to be in a position to fight for titles at the end of the season.”
On the attitude of his players:
“If there’s one thing this team has shown it’s their ambition and will to win game in, game out.”
On whether the team needs changes:
“The only thing I can do is be faithful to what got us here.”
On Neymar being unavailable for the next two games due to yellow card accumulation:
“It’s good for us because I can hand out more minutes and he can recover better.”
On the return of Andrés Iniesta:
“He played well [in Saturday's El Clásico]; it’s always important to get your captain back.”