Luis Enrique says no one should take much notice of what players and managers say when they are prisoners of euphoria or despair straight after games, particularly when it is him. So one can forget him leaving Juventus last week admitting he did not believe in a comeback after their 3-0 defeat because now the Barcelona manager says they can do again what they did in the last round and reach the Champions League semi-final. “We’ll score the first, the Camp Nou will score the second and the third will come all on its own,” he said.
If there was a little more realism from the man he followed into the chair at the San Joan Despítraining ground, Barcelona’s coach delivered what he called an “invitation to optimism”. Andrés Iniesta, who did not confirm he would be at the club next season, had described the score they brought back from Italy as malísimo – really, really bad – and talked less about producing the comeback than trying to get the tie into a position where it is even possible.
Luis Enrique, by contrast, insisted “miracle” was not the word and that they need “only” three goals, although their objective is five. “I believe,” he said.
Optimism is obligatory, of course, and Barcelona are acutely aware of the difficulties they face. Although they turned round a bigger deficit against PSG, winning 6-1 having lost 4-0 at the Parc des Princes, their opponents appear more expert while Barcelona have conceded seven over their past three games.
Nor are the conditions the same: last time Barcelona had three weeks to prepare, this time they have seven days. “I would have preferred a month off, a holiday in the Maldives with the players to show them the video,” Luis Enrique said.
But the coach offered reasons to be cheerful, among them the return after suspension of Sergio Busquets, whom he described as “a fundamental piece” in the side, and the news that Javier Mascherano has trained. Less good news came in the shape of Juventus’s Paulo Dybala, who will be fit despite some doubts. Luis Enrique noted the part played by pressure and refused to answer when he was asked about Dybala’s partner, Gonzalo Higuaín. , excusing himself by saying “Now’s not the day to motivate him or to build up their players; ask me another time and I’d be delighted to respond.”
“There is no need to score four, only three,” Luis Enrique added. “But our opponents will have chances and goals can arrive at any time so our objective will be to score five.” When he was told that Juventus thought they could get two, he replied: “I’ve got my planning all wrong then. We’ll have to get six.”
“We have got nothing to lose and that liberates us; we have no pressure. Our opponents have the semi-final in their pocket and they have to decide what to do. All we can do is attack, attack, attack, and then when it’s time to relax we have to attack again. We will take risks, for sure. No doubt.”
Asked if Barcelona need to be perfect and Lionel Messi at his very best, Luis Enrique said: “No. If we weren’t against PSG and it was OK, then no. We need to be effective; we need to make chances and generate a situation in which their confidence drops and generate in our fans that mad desire to make [the stadium] bounce.
“Anything is possible in football. I’d like all my players at their best [but] even at 25% Messi would give us a lot. We’re totally convinced of what it is we need to do. We may need to control our emotions and calm the players down.” And so to a message for the fans. “Don’t go in the 80th minute,” Luis Enrique said. “Last time [against PSG] some people missed goals. We will try until the very end. Everyone together, until the 95th minute. We have another chance to do something historic.”