Barcelona Search­ing for Con­sis­tency

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games -

Barcelona coach Luis En­rique con­cedes that his star-stud­ded team has yet to demon­strate the con­sis­tency needed to win a third straight La Liga ti­tle. The Cata­lan gi­ants, who host Ath­letic Bil­bao on Satur­day, fell two points fur­ther adrift of Real Madrid last week­end after a 1-1 draw at Real Betis. Barca are four points be­hind Real Madrid, just past the half­way mark of the sea­son, and the league lead­ers also have a game in hand.

“We’ve lacked con­sis­tency in the league in or­der to be higher up in the stand­ings,” Luis En­rique said at Fri­day’s news con­fer­ence. “We hope to get that in or­der to be up there.

“With­out a doubt, the league is the com­pe­ti­tion that re­wards con­sis­tency. It’s ev­i­dent that now, at the early stage of the sec­ond half of the cam­paign, we need to put pres­sure to get as many points as pos­si­ble.”

Barca elim­i­nated Ath­letic Bil­bao from the King’s Cup last 16 with a 4-3 ag­gre­gate win, yet Luis En­rique ex­pects a very dif­fi­cult en­counter. “It’s un­likely that we will sur­prise each other,” he said. “It’s go­ing to be a tough game as it al­ways is when fac­ing Ath­letic whether it’s at home or away.”

French left-back Lu­cas Digne and Span­ish in­ter­na­tional mid­field­ers An­dres Ini­esta and Ser­gio Bus­quets have re­cov­ered from their re­spec­tive in­juries and trained with the rest of their team­mates on Fri­day. How­ever, the trio will not fea­ture against Ath­letic.

CUP RE­VENGE ON AGENDA FOR REAL

A re­freshed Real Madrid face Celta Vigo on Sun­day less than two weeks after they were elim­i­nated from the King’s Cup by the Gali­cian club.

This time the La Liga lead­ers hope their Vigo visit will re­sult in a win and keep them ahead of Barcelona and Sevilla.

Real’s clos­est ri­vals dropped points last week­end­whileReal­bounced­back­fromtheir 4-3 ag­gre­gate loss to Celta in the King’s Cup quar­ter-fi­nals with a home win over Real So­ciedad. “We’re hav­ing a good sea­son de­spite hav­ing been knocked out of the King’s Cup,” Real mid­fielder Ma­teo Ko­vacic said.

Real, who also have a game in hand on their ti­tle ri­vals, have not had the dis­trac­tion of a Cup game in mid­week, whereas de­fend­ing La Liga cham­pi­ons Barca and Celta have. 6:00 PM 8:30 PM 11:00 PM 8:45 PM 11:00 PM 8:00 PM 11:00 PM 7:00 PM 9:30 PM 4:30 PM 11:00 PM 1:15 AM 5:00 PM 1:15 AM —AP

“We’ve got to make the most of the fact that we’ve got a fort­night with no mid­week games,” Ko­vacic said on the club’s web­site. “This will be good as it al­lows us to work on things and be fresher for the La Liga games.”

Por­tuguese de­fender Pepe and Colom­bian winger James Ro­driguez, out since early Jan­uary, are ex­pected to re­turn on Sun­day with both hav­ing re­cov­ered from re­spec­tive calf in­juries. And Croa­t­ian mid­fielder Luca Mo­dric, who has missed the last two games with a ham­string prob­lem, trained on Thurs­day.

Barcelona players dur­ing train­ing

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