Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is ”completely convinced” that his star-studded squad has enough firepower to overturn its 4-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao and win the Spanish Super Cup in the second leg on Monday night.
Luis Enrique is hoping for a stronger defensive performance at Camp Nou after conceding eight goals in the last two outings.
”We are completely convinced. This team is up to a challenge of this magnitude,” Luis Enrique said Sunday. ”If we play like we did last season then we have a chance.
”I have looked at the statistics and we had 18 games (last season) when we scored four or more goals. We have the talent, we are going to be in better shape and, when Barca plays, anything can happen. We cannot make mistakes.
We are capable of scoring four or more goals, but we cannot let them score.”
Barcelona will need a major comeback to keep alive its quest to match the six titles won in a year under former manager Pep Guardiola. It won the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday, beating Sevilla 5-4 after extra time with two goals from Lionel Messi.
After seeing his players tire easily and needing a late goal from Pedro Rodriguez to finally topple Sevilla, Luis Enrique made several changes to his starting 11 in the first leg against Bilbao on Friday.
That badly backfired as Bilbao’s up-tempo defense drew mistakes from inexperienced Sergi Roberto. Veteran defender Dani Alves had an exceptionally poor showing for Barcelona, plagued with lapses that helped striker Aritz Aduriz score two goals before needlessly giving away a penalty as Aduriz completed his hat trick.
Luis Enrique will now be under pressure to start his first-choice players, even though Barcelona faces an arguably more important Spanish league opener back at Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium next weekend.
The coach will still be without Neymar, who has the mumps, and injured left back Jordi Alba. Both Jeremy Mathieu and Adriano made mistakes that led to goals in place of Alba against Sevilla and Bilbao.
”During training on Saturday we analyzed what happened and why. We used real situations from last season and we saw how our players’ and coaches’ faces changed,” Luis Enrique said. ”Now we have to change the faces of our fans.”
Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde will have forward Inaki Williams and midfielder Fran Rico back from injury for the away match. But he may be tempted to give consecutive starts to Sabin Merino and Javier Eraso, first-team newcomers whose pace caused Barcelona’s defenders problems up front and played a role in two of Aduriz’s goals.
Despite being one of Spain’s most historically successful clubs, Bilbao, which only fields players born in the northern Basque Country or neighboring regions, won its last title in 1984.
”For Barca, this is just another trophy, and not one as important as the Champions League or the Spanish league. For us, this means everything after so long without winning one,” said Valverde. ”But we are facing Barca and we know that this team even if not playing at 100 percent can still create five or six clear scoring chances. We know that they will be motivated because the six titles would also be historic for them.”