Luis Enrique says Rayo Vallecano will be a tough opponent come Saturday. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Following FC Barcelona's last training session ahead of Saturday's visit by Rayo Vallecano, blaugrana head coach Luis Enrique told the press in his weekly press conference that the game "will be very tough, as always."

"Rayo Vallecano don't let you have the ball easily and they make you very uncomfortable. If we aren’t sharp, they can take possession and control the ball. The key is to not lose the ball and to be good defensively. We will have to force them into making mistakes."

The team and coaching staff face this new challenge after the recent hiatus for international qualifying matches. Neither Neymar nor Luis Suárez played with their national teams and both stayed behind to train in Barcelona.

"Having them not travel is something that suits us, because we need them to be in top form," said the coach, while explaining that injuries are a headache.

"The idea is to keep an eye on the number of minutes players play, but it's no excuse," he emphasised.

One example is Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets, who are on the cusp of exceeding 1,000 minutes played so far this season. "It's not an ideal situation. Both are key players for us. I want to find time to give them some rest, but I can't find that time," he assured.

He also talked about the role of the youngsters Sandro Ramírez and Munir El Haddadi, "two great players with potential who must contribute little by little, but without pressure."

"They're moving in the right direction and, despite playing more than they could have expected, I think they're helping us a lot and can still give more."

On Lionel Messi

Today marks the 11-year anniversary of Messi's debut with FC Barcelona. Luis Enrique, when asked about his best memory of Argentinian star, wanted to make a general assessment: "Overall, I prefer the satisfaction and pleasure of having lived in the Messi era."

But when asked about what pressure there might be to get Messi back as soon as possible, Luis Enrique demurred: "The key is not to get him back for one game or another. The key is that he recovers well."


Luis Enrique sizes up Rayo Vallecano por fcbarcelona