A furious Luis Enrique launched an impassioned defence of Andre Gomes ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League quarter-final away to Juventus.
Gomes was one of the players targeted for criticism after Barcelona suffered a shock 2-0 loss to Malaga on Saturday in a huge blow to their LaLiga title hopes.
And Luis Enrique was angry when he was asked if the former Valencia midfielder would have enough confidence to replace the suspended Sergio Busquets for the first leg of the tie in Turin.
“Of course he could have a chance of playing but what I think is a bit pathetic is that you are individualising any defeat on one player or two players in any team,” the Barca boss said at his pre-match media conference.
“When I am here I am going to come out and defend my players. It is a team sport. I think it is pathetic. This [targeting players] is something that happens in professional football that I think is totally unfair and undeserved.
“Obviously we all need to improve but to single out players and blame them for defeats I think is lamentable.
“Sergio Busquets is a crucial player for us; just look at his statistics and you will understand how important he is.
“However, suspensions are normal in a competition like this and we must be ready to replace him in the best possible way.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 10, 2017
The Barca boss disagreed that the Malaga loss on Saturday was a warning his team needed ahead of meeting the Serie A champions and felt they had been very unfortunate to lose the game, which saw Neymar sent off.
He continued: “At this stage of the competition, knowing how important these games are, the players are more than ready to deal with whatever comes up.
“We know how attractive this competition is and how attractive it is to play a quarter-final against Juventus. I don’t think at this stage the weekend league result has any impact. It is more a case of controlling and calming the players for the game than motivating them.
“Malaga was a good game from us. The result was awful, unfair. We were very much the better team but in football sometimes for the smallest mistake you can pay a hefty price. It was a game we deserved to win, albeit not brilliantly like the game before against Sevilla.
“But as professionals we cannot bang our heads against the wall when we have a bad result and jump for joy when we have a good one. We deal with things differently.”
Luis Enrique did not want to compare the tie to the 2015 final in Berlin between the two sides, which Barca won 3-1.
“There are a few different players compared to the Berlin final,” he said.
“Juve are still a great team, but I cannot say if they are better or worse than two years ago.
“I have great memories of that final, but this game is completely different. Both sides are definitely confident about their chances.
“We need to play good football. Juventus’ defensive numbers in the Champions League this season are spectacular – up to the level of their history and worthy of a team in the quarter-finals.
“But our target is the same as ever – play well, regardless of the venue and be better than a very strong opponent. Of course that is going to be very difficult.”
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