Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique wants the focus to be on football when his side take on local rivals Espanyol in the second leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie at Cornella-El Prat on Wednesday.
The competition holders overturned an early strike from Felipe Caicedo in the first leg at Camp Nou to win 4-1, Lionel Messi – who won the prestigious Ballon d’Or award for the fifth time in his stunning career on Monday – bagged a double, while Gerard Pique and Neymar were also on the scoresheet.
Espanyol’s Papakouli Diop and Hernan Perez were both sent off inside the final 15 minutes – the former following a verbal exchange with Luis Suarez – as tempers flared in the Catalan derby.
Barca forward Suarez later received a two-match ban after being singled out in the referee’s post-match report for his conduct in the tunnel, where he is accused of having sparked a brawl.
Luis Enrique, though, is eager to focus on what happens on the pitch as Barca defend a healthy three-goal lead in the second leg.
“I would like football to be the focus, but we will see what happens,” the Barca boss told reporters after the 4-0 Liga victory over Granada.
“The idea is to share the minutes out because there are players that have accumulated more than last season, for example. What I want is for everyone to be at their best level in the coming months.
Enrique also praised Arda Turan’s first two Barca performances since he became eligible to play for the club in January.
He added: “Arda was good, he lacks a bit of rhythm, but he brings dynamism, freshness – we are happy with him. We will see his best position as he plays more games.
“We have still not seen him getting forward a lot; he is a player that drives forward, sets up goals, a player who is going to add a lot of different things. He has to adapt and will need time, but I am happy.”
The only game Luis Enrique’s team have failed to win in their last six in all competitions was a 0-0 La Liga draw at Espanyol on January 2.
Constantin Galca’s men, meanwhile, are without a win in four matches, losing all of the games during that span other than the derby stalemate and have not beaten Barca in their last 14 attempts.
Barca defender Dani Alves, who launched a furious rant at the press for their coverage of the first leg, is optimistic of sealing progression to the next round.
“We have a big lead in the Copa del Rey,” he said. “We will try to make it to the next round, which is our goal.
“Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan have adapted very well to our play. It is obvious that they need more minutes but they feel better each day and we are here to help them feel at ease.”
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