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Luis Enrique was speaking to the press on Friday / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Barça return to Liga action on Saturday against Athletic Club Bilbao (4.00 PM CET) and Luis Enrique gave his pre-match press conference after training on Friday morning. “Everything about Athletic worries me” he said. “They’ve been playing well for several seasons. They’re the best team at creating attacking pressure. It’s always very motivational to be able to play Athletic.”

He reiterated various times how much he admires the Basque club “and the work Ernesto Valverde is doing in charge. Pressure and strategy are their two main weapons. We’ll try to counter that. The players have been warned. Bilbao don’t speculate. They go out and attack and dominate many aspects of the game.”Pressure and strategy are their two main weapons. We’ll try to counter them

This week the players have been returning on different days from their international duties, just one of many factors that Luis Enrique will need to consider for Saturday afternoon. “All of those conditions are important when it comes to putting a starting line-up together” he explained. “The travelling distances, fitness, training this week, etc.” And he also needs to bear in mind that the Champions League starts this week, with Barça entertaining APOEL at the  Camp Nou on Wednesday at 8.45 PM CET.

The FCB manager continued by saying that “Neymar is in perfect condition to play, like everyone,” and added that Leo Messi “trained alone at the start of the week and later together with his team-mates.”This is a marathon not a sprint and none of the players are quite 100 per cent yet

Asked for a general appraisal of how his players are performing, Luis Enrique highlighted “their good attitude … But this is a marathon not a sprint and none of the players are quite 100 per cent yet … And there’s competition for places, as I requested, and that will help”.

The highest profile game in La Liga this Saturday, however, is the Madrid Derby, and on that match the FCB manager limited himself to saying that “all that matters to me is our game because it’s the only one that we can have an impact on. It’s impossible for both of them to lose.”

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