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Luis Enrique defends Barcelona in LaLiga disciplinary row

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has hit back at criticism from LaLiga president Javier Tebas by pointing to his team’s disciplinary record this season.

The Spanish champions stated on Thursday they will pursue legal action against Tebas and LaLiga’s Competition Committee after they suggested Barca players were culpable of antagonising Valencia fans during last Saturday’s clash at Mestalla.

The comments relate to an incident towards the end of the match – for which Valencia have been fined €1,500 – when Neymar was hit by a bottle thrown from the crowd as Barca celebrated the winning goal in their 3-2 victory.

Luis Enrique says the club statement speaks for itself but highlighted the lack of yellow and red cards shown to his players this season as proof they are not a team who look to provoke opposing players or fans.

“I said what I had to say and refer to the announcement the club made yesterday. I have nothing else to comment,” he said. “I’m focusing on the sporting side of things, which we can control.

“We’re used to controversies. This is just another one. I’ve spoken about it at length this week. The same things always happen.

“I won’t throw more gas on the fire. We have values about not hurting other players and we try to transmit that. Everybody has expressed their opinion and my focus is on Granada. We need three points.

“We’re the team with the least number of yellow cards. It’s there to see. We’ll just focus on playing.”

Barca have several players struggling for fitness ahead of Saturday’s game at Camp Nou, but Luis Enrique denied the size of the absentee list is out of the ordinary given the number of matches they must play.

“There have been a higher number of injuries than usual but that happens. You have to manage it,” he said, after confirming that Rafinha, Jasper Cillessen and Arda Turan will face late fitness tests.

“Gerard Pique got hit; [Andres] Iniesta, I don’t need to comment; Jeremy Mathieu, it’s muscular; Jordi Alba, it’s muscular. You’re telling me that another team doesn’t have injuries?

“They don’t have the Barca calendar, either. A lot of games, a lot of journeys. Football is a contact sport. You hope there will be no injuries, but it’s impossible.”

Luis Enrique also insisted he is happy with striker Paco Alcacer, despite the Spain international having yet to score since his move from Valencia.

“The only thing Alcacer needs is that, when he shoots, it goes across the line and into the net,” he said. “I’m very happy with his performance. I encourage him to improve as much as he can, as I do with every player, but he just needs to focus on what he does and he’ll get the goal.”

Fri 28 Oct, 2016
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