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Luis Enrique is expected to announce the squad list for Betis on Saturday morning. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Once upon a time, FC Barcelona held a nine-point lead over Atlético Madrid in the La Liga standings. 

Six long weeks later, though, and that lead has vanished into thin air.

The Catalans and the Colchoneros are now dead even on points, with Barça holding an all too tenuous tie-breaking edge based on superior head-to-head goal differential, a vital statistical lifeline stemming from 2–1 wins over Atlético this season, both at the Calderón, back in early September, and at Camp Nou, back in late January.

As it stands today, Barça have zero margin for error.

But that doesn’t faze the team’s manager, Luis Enrique Martínez. "I'm optimistic,” he said at his weekly press conference, a day before Barça head to Seville, where they’ll face Real Betis in the first of three must-win games to close out the season.

With both Atlético and Real Madrid — closely drafting the top two by a single point — hot on Barça’s tails, any slip-up will likely cost the Catalans the title.

Luis Enrique, however, remains stoic.

“Our last three games are very tough, but I see the team in good form," he said. "This is what we've been fighting for all season.”

The Barça manager responded to a bevy of interesting queries on Friday. Here are the highlights of what he had to say:

On Gerard Piqué’s opinion that if Barça don’t win the league the season is a failure:

"People can say what they want. I draw my own conclusions at the end of the season."

On relinquishing a big lead in the standings:

"Some people had said the league was already over, I said it wasn't. I was right."

“It’s unlikely the teams chasing us will slip up. After all the pressure, whichever team wins the title will really deserve it.”

On whether he would watch the other teams’ games in the season’s final stretch:

“This is the most exciting time of the season.”

"I'd like to see our opponents lose, but the result won't change whether or not I watch."

On whether Barça should sign Francesco Totti:

“If we can get him at a good price, why not?"

“He’s the embodiment of AS Roma.”

On the team’s lacklustre performances earlier this month:

"I can only complement my players, they've performed brilliantly this season."

On his general feeling about the team’s current form:

"We are in a privileged situation and I think we’re playing great heading into the final stretch.” 


Luis Enrique buoyant in the face of three must... por fcbarcelona
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