A visibly relaxed Luis Enrique sat down behind the microphone around 1.30pm CET on Wednesday to field an array of questions from the media for the first time in 2017.

Although the prime motive for his appearance was to discuss Thursday's first leg of the Copa del Rey round of 16 tie against Athletic Club de Bilbao, the manager, fresh off a two-week winter holiday, was probed from a multitiude of angles, with queries about tomorrow's match interspersed with others regarding his players' health, his expectations for the new year, and, mutliple times, his coaching future.

Read the FC Barcelona manager's best quotes here:  

"Everyone has been able to enjoy a few days rest and I am happy with the shape the players have come back in."


"I am sure we will be at a high level during the knockout round due to how we ended 2016 and the condition the players have returned in.”

“We face a Club that we know well. The tie will be a difficult one and first we need to go to their ground knowing how dangerous Athletic are. They will put pressure on us and it will be an interesting tie to watch.”

“I don't think Athletic will change the way they defend. They are very brave and they are a team that try and overwhelm you with their pressing. They aren't scared of leaving spaces in behind.”

“In the league they caused us problems and I expect the Athletic that turns up for big occassions. It will be difficult.”

“We have been able to enjoy some well-earned holidays and I am pleasantly surprised with the players since their return. They have come back in better shape than when they left.”


“I am very happy with the response in training sessions and their performance levels. All my players are ready to compete.”

“I ask for good health, us to improve our level of performance and be a better team in order to make the fans happy at the end of the season.”

“Those who win the titles are the ones who deserve them.”

“I don't look at competitions to give game time to one player or another. We are a squad and we win titles together. I decide which player plays depending on what I think is best for the team. I don't divide it up into different competitions.”

“Playing against Athletic is always difficult and it is no different because it is the first game of the year. The pressure will be high both on and off the pitch and I expect us to play well form what I have seen of my players since the start of 2017.”

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