Luis Enrique and Carlo Ancelotti have an unsurprising difference of opinion over Barcelona and Real Madrid’s prospects over the remainder of the season.
Barca boss Enrique, whose side have the luxury of being able to drop points after establishing a four-point lead at the top of the table with a 2-1 Clasico win before the international break, does not believe it will be possible for either side to win all 10 remaining games.
“I hope I’m wrong and that we can do it, but I don’t think anyone can win all 10 games,” he said ahead of Sunday’s trip to Celta Vigo. “Every game is important and judging by what we know from previous seasons, nothing is ever easy.”
Under-pressure Madrid chief Ancelotti, however, claims that his players are perfectly capable of gaining the maximum 30 points from their remaining fixtures – something they may well have to do to snatch the title away from Barca.
“We have the quality to do that – it’s not a Utopian dream,” said the Italian coach. “We did it from September to December and we can do it again.
“We’re convinced the league is still wide open, but we cannot afford any more slips. We have suffered a dip but the players are fresh and fired up.”
Barca chief Enrique argued that his team’s rewards will come automatically if they continue their recent form, saying: “I just hope my team finishes the season better than it started, and so far it looks like we’re heading that way.
“There’s no secret formula – it’s just a question of working hard and living up to the standards we set for ourselves.”
Enrique is relieved to have Lionel Messi available after the Argentine star missed his country’s friendly fixtures against El Salvador and Ecuador with a foot injury.
Messi came through Saturday’s training sessions with flying colours and Enrique played down the extent of the problem, saying: “He’s been training the same as the rest and he’s fine.
“Leo’s always getting kicked so you can’t avoid knocks, but he’s in perfect shape.”
Today’s trip to Vigo will be Enrique’s first return to his former club since quitting the Balaidos for the Nou Camp last summer, and he is expected to receive a warm welcome from home fans who remain grateful for his efforts in leading the team to a ninth placed finish last season – their highest since 2006.
The feeling of respect is mutual as Enrique admitted he still has a lot of affection for the Galician club, saying: “I can’t wait to go back because Vigo was such a special place for me. I learned a lot of new things there – it is a unique city and holds some fantastic memories for me.”
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo acknowledged that Barca were all too aware of Celta’s capabilities after their surprise 1-0 win five months ago.
“The fact that they won at Camp Nou makes us look at it from another point of view,” he said. “We have to be vigilant against Celta, but above all we must rely on our own play. We know that every game we play in the league can affect the standings and we have a difficult opponent.”
Chile international Bravo knows Eduardo Berizzo – who took over as Celta coach last May – from his spell on the national team’s coaching staff, and reckons his “very dedicated and methodical” style is reflected in Celta’s play.
“He likes to control the ball,” Bravo said of his countryman. “When they don’t have possession, they’re aggressive in getting it back.”
Enrique will be missing Javier Mascherano through suspension while left-back Jordi Alba is likely to be out for another week with a hamstring injury sustained on international duty with Spain.
Versatile Brazilian Adriano is set to deputise for Alba, while Mascherano’s absence means that Gerard Pique and Jeremy Mathieu will continue the central defensive partnership which earned rave reviews after the victory over Madrid a fortnight ago.
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