Luis Enrique wants Barcelona to focus on winning their final game of the season at Camp Nou against Eibar next weekend, even though it may not be enough for them to win a third successive La Liga title.
Neymar scored a hat trick on Sunday and Luis Suarez was also on target as Barca won 4-1 at Las Palmas to remain at the top of the table, but Real Madrid beat Sevilla by the same scoreline and have a game in hand which could move them to the top of the table going into the final round of fixtures.
Zinedine Zidane’s side face Celta Vigo at Balaidos on Wednesday before closing the season out with a trip to Malaga knowing that four points will be enough for them to clinch their first league title since 2012.
“We have one game left and the objective is clear: To get three points,” Luis Enrique said in a news conference after his side’s win at the Estadio Gran Canaria.
“[Madrid] have two games left, but they’re difficult games away against Celta and Malaga, two grounds which we’ve lost at — we’ve lost in Vigo a couple of times. If we’ve lost there, then any team can lose there.”
Real’s final game against Malaga in particular has generated controversy during the final stretch of the season due to comments made by their manager Michel – a former Madrid player – and a derogatory tweet aimed at Barca by their president Abdullah Al-Thani, which saw him fined this week.
Luis Enrique had been asked if he believed Malaga would put up a fight a few weeks ago and responded by saying mystically: “If my grandma had wheels, she wouldn’t be my grandma, she’d be a bicycle.”
However, on Sunday he insisted that answer wasn’t a slight on Malaga’s professionalism: “Don’t put words in my mouth. I was saying to the journalist that if you ask me questions in conditional, I will respond in conditional.
“I’ve never doubted anyone’s professionalism. We lost in Vigo and Malaga, so you can see [Madrid] have to play difficult rivals.”
Barca’s win against Las Palmas came in difficult circumstances, with defenders Gerard Pique, Aleix Vidal, Sergi Roberto and Jeremy Mathieu all missing the trip for various reasons.
And they were dealt a further setback when Javier Mascherano dropped out of the starting lineup after getting injured in the warm-up. It meant a league debut for Brazilian youngster Marlon Santos, while Lucas Digne was forced to play at right-back.
“The reaction from the team was very positive given the circumstances that surrounded the game,” Luis Enrique said.
“We preferred not to risk Mascherano after he felt some discomfort and that meant Digne had to play at right-back despite being a left-footer and that Marlon came in to the side.
“[Marlon] did really well, though, especially in his individual battles and he was very relaxed [on the ball]. We were switched on and didn’t really let [Las Palmas] grow into the game.”