Barcelona Searching for Consistency
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