Luis Enrique paid tribute to the strength of Barcelona’s squad after Ivan Rakitic’s goal earned a 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao – his 100th victory as head coach of the Spanish champions.
Since his appointment in May 2014, Luis Enrique has claimed a century of wins from just 126 Barcelona matches, and the latest victory came after a hard-fought battle in rainy conditions at San Mames.
Rakitic scored with a simple header midway through the first half, but Luis Enrique saw his team – missing the likes of Andres Iniesta and Neymar – play some excellent passing football to ensure they made it two wins out of two LaLiga matches this season.
“I am very happy with the result achieved against a team of this magnitude,” said Luis Enrique.
“It is a result that strengthens us and we got three points of great merit.
“We had an early season much like the end of the last: wanting to make a pace that allows us to be top.
“Although we are missing some players, I view the team very positively – we have a large staff, eager to compete.”
Luis Enrique made one change to the team that beat Real Betis 6-2 in the opening game of the season, fielding goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen in place of Claudio Bravo, who joined Manchester City.
Ter Stegen struggled in his last outing at San Mames, when Barcelona were beaten 4-0 in the Supercopa de Espana, but the 24-year-old came away with a clean sheet this time, despite hitting a badly misplaced pass early in the game.
Luis Enrique added: “The pace of the game was frantic, even improper at this stage of the season, but the menu ingredients were these: a close rival, generating problems.
“We made mistakes early on, but we will have to consider whether these were our fault or the result of our rivals’ successes.
“In the second half we controlled the game during the first 30 minutes but ultimately Athletic made it a tight game and we were unable to finish them off.
“Although I would have preferred to have had more control in the attacking half, you have to see where the spaces are. With three men against three, the spaces are in the long-ball game and then you lose precision.
“We have been very successful and serious and have made a great physical effort. I think we could have closed the game out earlier but we made a great performance.”