Barcelona manager Luis Enrique is confident his side will bounce back from their worst run of the season to conquer La Liga, following their 2-1 defeat at home to Valencia. With five games remaining, his side are still top with their destiny in their own hands, despite squandering a nine-point lead since the start of the month. And Enrique maintained that he decided against making substitutions on Sunday (17 April) because the team were playing well and deserved victory.
The Catalans arrived on the back of Champions League elimination against Atletico Madrid, but with hopes of still winning the double of La Liga and the Copa del Rey, being three points ahead of Atletico Madrid and four of Real Madrid, as well as having secured a place in the cup final against Sevilla.
But La Liga giants suffered a new setback with their third consecutive league defeat, and they have now taken just one point – from a draw against Villarreal – in the last four games, which have included a defeat to Real in El Clasico.
Atletico are now equal on points at the top, with Los Blancos only one behind and with a superior goal difference. Enrique, though, points out that, with their goal difference significantly better than Atletico's, the title will be Barca's should they win their five remaining games. And he insists his side deserved to beat Valencia, attributing their failure to bad luck in front of goal.
"The game started [badly] with the difficulties of the [poor] run that we are on... but I think the team had a magnificent response," said Enrique.
"We miss out on three points, which I think we deserved to win, but football is like this. It is a fickle sport that allows you to win [while] barely attacking. Sometimes that's what happens. You have to know how to lose. Now we have an incredible challenge in front of us. If we win the five remaining games we will be the champions."
The manager, surprisingly, failed to make any substitutions during the match, amid speculation that he doesn't trust his fringe players. He explained: "It would have been very unfair to take out any of the players. The eleven starters were playing a very good game. Today is not a day to criticise my players, but to praise them. The players have taught everyone a lesson about how to approach a game like this. We were trying to tie the game until the 93rd minute."
The Barcelona manager, meanwhile, lost his temper with an Argentinian journalist. The reporter, called Victor Malo (the Spanish word for 'bad'), asked whether the poor run of results is due to the physical preparation of his squad.
The Barcelona boss replied: "What is your surname?" "Malo," the journalist said. "Correct, next question," Enrique shot back.