Ivan Rakitic has challenged Barcelona not to allow their standards to drop as they aim to prolong their record-breaking run of form against Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Luis Enrique’s side made it 29 games without defeat in all competitions on Wednesday with a 1-1 draw with Valencia in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, moving them beyond the previous best set by Pep Guardiola’s side in 2010-11.
Barca’s 8-1 aggregate win sent them into a final showdown with Sevilla, who overcame Celta in their semi-final, meaning the defence of last season’s treble remains a possibility for the Liga leaders.
And Rakitic insists the players are only interested in sustaining their form and winning trophies as they look to make it 30 games without defeat in the 100th top-flight encounter with the Galicians – a team who stunned them with a 4-1 win in the reverse fixture in September.
“We were able to try things out and that’s important. We found that even using a different system we can do well,” the Croatian midfielder said.
“Among the squad, we didn’t say anything about the unbeaten record. What matters to us are titles.
“We are on very positive form. We work hard in every training session. We need to be at 100 per cent for the rest of the season.”
Celta’s exit from the Copa continued what has proven to be a disappointing 2016 so far for Eduardo Berizzo’s side, who have only won one of their last seven in all competitions.
They have lost their last two away games in La Liga – 3-0 against Rayo Vallecano and 2-1 versus Las Palmas – and sit seventh in the table, 10 points off the top four.
Berizzo was happy with his side’s application on Thursday, however, and believes the fans may well be back on their side as they aim to win for only the third time in 50 league visits to Camp Nou.
“I think we have to feel very proud with how the players have played. We were the protagonists in the game. That’s how you should exit a competition.
“Our greatest prize is having received a standing ovation from our fans.”
Barca handed a number of youngsters the chance to impress against Valencia but are set to recall Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez and Neymar to the side to face Celta, after they were rested.
Lionel Messi is also expected to be available after he underwent a minor kidney procedure this week.
Celta have been encouraged by Nolito’s recovery from a hamstring problem but are unlikely to risk the Barca academy graduate against his old club, while Andreu Fontas (Achilles) is still receiving treatment after suffering a relapse to his injury. Fabian Orellana is banned.
Key Opta stats:
– Luis Enrique’s side have gone 15 games without a defeat in La Liga (W12 D3), and have failed to score in only one of them (0-0 against Espanyol).
– Iago Aspas and Lionel Messi (both with five) are the players to have hit the woodwork the most times in La Liga this season.
– Luis Suarez (20), Neymar (16) and Messi (12) have scored 48 goals in La Liga this season – more than 18 sides in the competition (all but Real Madrid).
– Neymar has scored three of Barcelona’s last five goals against Celta in La Liga.
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