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Luis Enrique was speaking to the press after the team trained on a bitterly cold Saturday morning/ MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

[[DES_1]]Luis Enrique told his Saturday morning press conference how much he enjoys games away to Athletic Bilbao, the day before he is set to visit the new San Mamés for the first time as Barça manager. “It’s always very special because of the atmosphere there” he said. “It’s like an English stadium.” He visited the new ground for the first time last season when he was at Celta and says “it’s a beautiful stadium and we want to be worthy of such a place.”

On the opposition, he commented that “they compete for every ball, you can’t relax for two seconds. And they have a lot of physical players that are strong in the air … Their season didn’t get off to a great start, but I think that’s because they were struggling to play in both La Liga and the Champions League.” The Basques are currently twelfth in the table, but Luis Enrique feels “they have stayed faithful to the same Athletic style of the last few seasons. We know them well and we know Ernesto Valverde well. We know this is going to be a difficult match.” Indeed, Barça have not won away to Bilbao in any of the last three attempts.

He feels it has been a bonus not to have a midweek fixture going into the match. “These were the best training sessions we’ve had all season” he was happy to say. “They’ve been playing at an extraordinary level, so I’m pretty optimistic about our chances tomorrow.”All three of the top teams are going to have our bad days and there will be plenty of movements in the league table

The team has now won eight matches in a row, and commenting on that, the FCB manager said “it would be nice to think that there won’t be any more difficult situations between now and the end of the season. But there are bound to be games where we’re not quite as effective as usual and make mistakes … But all three of the top teams are going to have our bad days and there will be plenty of movements in the league table. Especially as we get nearer to the end of the season, when there are teams fighting against relegations, That’s when you always get surprises.”

Barça are four points behind leaders Real Madrid, who face Atlético Madrid in the city derby later today. “The best result for us would be a draw” said Luis Enrique. “Otherwise, it would always be better for the team lowest in the table to win. But I don’t base my methods on the scores between other teams. What we need to do is make sure we win our matches.”

Focused on football

Luis Enrique was asked about the institutional affairs that have affected the club this week, and whether they have had any impact on his squad’s preparations. “Not at all” he replied. “The team is concentrating on its own job, which is to play football and win titles … For various unfortunate reasons, this team is used to having to avoid being distracted by non-sporting matters.”

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