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Luis Enrique and Iniesta, with Rafel Pol during Friday's workout at the Ciutat Esportiva. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

FC Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique Martínez was staunch in his defence of his players and the team’s overall approach during Friday’s press conference.

With FC Barcelona having seen their league lead dwindle to six points after a draw and a defeat in their last two league meetings, they now go on the on the road face Real Sociedad at Anoeta, where Barça are winless in their last five visits.

The Barça manager knows how big these three points are, not only to maintain their lead, but also to help his players recuperate their confidence-laden swagger, one that accompanied them on their recently snapped 39-game winning streak — a new Spanish record  — and their seemingly ironclad march towards the La Liga title that seems to have taken a minor detour in recent weeks.

He was asked right off the bat if the team might be a bit scared given the situation. “We don't have fear, regardless of the opponent,” he said, while brushing off another suggestion that Tuesday’s coming return leg in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals could provide an unwanted distraction. "The only game that exists right now is the one at Anoeta."

Nevertheless, he seemed all too aware of his team’s struggles at Anoeta. Neither Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino, nor Luis Enrique himself have been able to win there.  "I don't think there's a team in Spain that has been as successful against us as they have."

In a bit of an ironic twist, last season’s treble-winning campaign was idling in neutral when, precisely, a disheartening loss at Anoeta to kick off the new year ended up providing an unexpected spark that would rocket the Catalans through the winter months, through as springtime gauntlet of high-powered matches in all three competitions, and into the history books.

"Whether we win titles this season depends on the things we can control ourselves," Luis Enrique, ever the realist, said.

Here are the highlights of what else he had to say at Friday’s weekly press conference:

On tomorrow’s game against Real Sociedad:

The only thing we can't do tomorrow is relax. We have to be intense. The players know that."

On ex-Barça man and Real Sociedad manager Eusebio:

Eusebio had given Real Sociedad offensive and defensive prowess, the way their play is structured, and I’m happy things have gone well for him.”

On winning the league title:

“These three points would be a big help after having gone so many years without winning there.”

“There are still seven games left. It looks to be pretty even. We can’t get ahead of ourselves until we’ve mathematically won it.”

On the Champions League having an effect on La Liga play:

“It’s another competition, but… When you play in the Champions League, the physical toll is higher.”

On some of his individual players:

“I think Luis Suárez is a very smart guy. He came here with a sanction to serve and he knows he’s got all eyes on him…He’s doing very well but he can still improve in all areas. He has to keep doing what he’s doing, to use his body to get position, and fight for every ball…I love him, he’s vital to our team because of what he brings from a football standpoint and because of generosity.”

Rafinha brings us versatility. He can play inside, or as a false nine, and even on the wing. It’s a joy to have him back and he only needs some minutes to get back in game shape.”

"Munir has matured a lot this season, both as a footballer and as a person. He’s ready for every opportunity. He’s a player for the future."


Luis Enrique says Real Sociedad is toughest... por fcbarcelona

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