Sunday, May 28, 2017

Messi, Alba and Umtiti backed by Luis Enrique over ban threat

SoccerNews in La Liga 6 Feb 2017

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Luis Enrique says Barcelona trio Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti will play as normal against Atletico Madrid despite being one booking away from missing a potential Copa del Rey final.

Three yellow cards over the course of the competition results in a one-game ban, leaving the three players – who all have two to their name – in a precarious situation ahead of the second leg of the semi-final with Atletico on Tuesday.

Barca lead the last-four tie 2-1 on aggregate, but are already without Neymar for the match at Camp Nou, who received his third yellow card of the tournament in the first leg.

Luis Enrique, though, will play Messi, Alba and Umtiti without fear of them receiving a costly ban and does not expect the tense situation to affect their play.

“No [it will not affect our approach to the game] because fortunately these players are very good at knowing the situation,” the head coach said at his pre-match media conference.

“I don’t think it is going to affect how these players play in the game. The most important thing is to beat Atletico Madrid and get into the final.

“After that we will see what has happened, but I don’t think it is going to play a role.

“There is nothing I can do to change Neymar being out – so [being frustrated] would be a waste of energy.

“I have fewer options at that position than midfield, although I do have some interesting players I can put there on the wing. 

“But we are going to make the other coach [Diego Simeone] think about it and not give away who we are going to play there.”

Sergio Busquets (ankle) and Andres Iniesta (calf) have missed four and five matches respectively but continue to train with the first team, while Gerard Pique (adductor) is recovering well after coming off in Saturday’s 3-0 LaLiga win over Athletic Bilbao.

Luis Enrique said: “Busquets and Iniesta are getting better every day, which is very positive news for us. It might be possible they play, but it could be that it doesn’t happen.

“In principle Pique is much better too. I think the fact that he came out of the game before he got any worse worked out well.

“I think he is ready – we have one more day to go and a few more hours to rest. So we will see if he is in the optimal condition to play.”

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