BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona must take advantage of playing on Saturday and beat Las Palmas at the Camp Nou to put pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid and their Sunday rivals Sevilla, coach Luis Enrique said on Friday.
The defending champions are five points adrift of Real, who have a game in hand and set a new Spanish record at Sevilla on Thursday in the King’s Cup by going unbeaten in a 40th straight game in all competitions. Barca trail Sevilla by one point.
“Our goal is to put pressure on Real Madrid but in order to do that we have to do our job and win,” Luis Enrique told a news conference.
Barca fell further behind last weekend when they drew 1-1 at Villarreal and Real and Sevilla won their respective games, an outcome that had followed a 2-1 loss at Athletic Bilbao in the Cup.
Luis Enrique saw a much more vibrant Barca team win the second leg against Athletic with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all scoring in the same contest for the first time since Oct. 19.
“We deserved much more from our opening two games (of 2017) and that’s why I’m not worried,” Luis Enrique said. “Provided we dominate the game and generate opportunities, a good result will come our way.”
Las Palmas are eighth in the standings with 24 points from 17 games and coming off a 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup, although they did not progress.
“We face a team that has a similar philosophy to us,” Luis Enrique said. “It’s one of the most entertaining teams to watch as a fan but as a rival coach, it’s not because you have to try to take the ball away from them. “It’s an important game.”
Messi continues to amaze his coach with his performances.
The Argentinian star scored his second free-kick goal in four days on Wednesday.
“His ability to score from set pieces is another merit to add to Leo’s virtues,” Luis Enrique said. “The numbers are there, he can score from any angle.”
Luis Enrique also had praise for Suarez, who scored his 100th goal in 120 games with Barca in midweek.
“We didn’t make a mistake when we decided to get him, not just because of his performances on the pitch but because of his personal qualities,” he said.
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