Enrique ill-advised to call for Barca improvement after off-field issues
Barcelona are a point off Real Madrid in La Liga’s standings, still in the Copa del Rey and face a Champions League opponent in Manchester City come February that they know they can beat. That’s pretty good going when you consider how serious some off-field problems are for the Catalan giants.
Coral make Barca 2/1 second-favourites for the Spanish top flight title and 11/2 third-favourites to lift Europe’s elite club competition, but manager Luis Enrique harshly called from improvement following a 4-0 win across Spain at Galician club Deportivo La Coruna in their last outing.
“There are still things we need to improve, both in attack and defence,” said Enrique. “That’s the only way that we can challenge for titles, which is our main target for the season.”
Only fellow provincial side Celta Vigo, Enrique’s former club, represents a longer trip for Barcelona than their recent away day in Coruna, so to criticise the players after a dominant and consummate performance on the road seems misguided.
Enrique has come under pressure, and his relationship with Barca golden boy Lionel Messi, in particular, is under the microscope. Argentina icon Messi hit his 30th career hat-trick in senior competitive club football for the Nou Camp outfit at the Riazor.
Having watched Messi take home the match ball, Barca boss Enrique was not exactly effusive with praise. “He’s always been playing a very high standard of football,” Enrique added. “I never noticed any drop in his form.”
Saying his side need to improve may have been meant with good intentions, but could have a negative effect ahead of a difficult Copa del Rey quarter-final tie against La Liga champions Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone’s men have already knocked out cross-capital rivals and competition holders Real Madrid, so Barcelona will hold no fear for them, even though the Catalan clubs are odds-on at 8/15 to win the first leg.