Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has sought to play down Neymar's petulant reaction when the Brazil forward was substituted in Saturday's 2-2 La Liga draw at Sevilla.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has sought to play down Neymar’s petulant reaction when the Brazil forward was substituted in Saturday’s 2-2 La Liga draw at Sevilla.
Neymar, who scored a superb free kick to make it 2-0 to Barca after Lionel Messi’s opener, was clearly furious at being replaced by Xavi with around 20 minutes left and Spanish media speculated he might be dropped for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg at Paris St Germain.
Luis Enrique declined to reveal who would start the match at the Parc des Princes but did make it clear that he was the one in charge and urged all his players to respect that.
“I haven’t seen the footage,” Luis Enrique told reporters after he was asked about television images showing Neymar complaining to his team mates on the bench.
“As a coach I understand that all the players want to be on the pitch,” he added.
“And the players must understand that I am the coach and I have to make decisions. Beyond that you can speculate and draw the conclusions you want.”
Asked again about Neymar’s behaviour later in the news conference, Luis Enrique drew laughter by taking the chance to wish his mother a happy birthday.
Barca and PSG have already met twice in the Champions League group stage this term, with the Ligue 1 side winning 3-2 in Paris and Barca’s 3-1 success at the Nou Camp helping them finish as pool winners.
Barca are in the last eight of Europe’s elite club competition for a record eighth season in a row, while PSG are seeking a last-four place for the second time, having lost to AC Milan in 1994-95 after beating Barca in the quarter-finals.
PSG’s hopes of making the semi-finals have been hit by suspensions and injury, with Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Italy midfielder Marco Verratti banned and midfielder Thiago Motta out with a thigh injury.
Brazil centre back David Luiz has been sidelined with a hamstring problem, but has been included in the squad for Wednesday’s match.
“Obviously they have some players missing, we cannot hide that, but if we remember the group game when Ibrahimovic wasn’t playing they beat us,” Luis Enrique said.
“Then when Ibrahimovic was playing in Barcelona we were able to beat them.
“They are important players for them without doubt but they have a strong squad and for sure they will cause us problems.”
The return leg is in Barcelona on April 21.