After watching his Barcelona team set a Spanish record by registering a 35th consecutive game without defeat, Luis Enrique has warned title rivals they are close to unbeatable in their current mood.
The Catalan giants romped to a 5-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano on Thursday, moving past the undefeated mark set by Leo Beenhakker’s Real Madrid in 1988-89 after last suffering defeat at Sevilla more than five months ago.
Enrique said: “We played with a lot of attitude, intensity and accuracy from the beginning. It’s very difficult to stop us when we’re performing at this level.”
Unusually for a manager whose team had just claimed a 5-1 win, Enrique pinpointed the distribution skills of keeper Claudio Bravo as a key factor in Barca’s success.
Rayo’s strategy of pressing high up the pitch, attempting to prevent Barca from playing out from defence, resulted in Bravo receiving an unusual amount of possession as his team-mates evaded the pressure imposed by Rayo’s forwards by passing to him.
The Chilean attempted 37 passes – more than Luis Suarez and only two fewer than left-back Jeremy Mathieu – and his pass completion rate of 86.5 per cent was the third-highest in the team behind Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic.
Enrique added: “Against a team like Rayo who mark man-to-man, Bravo is the only player with freedom on the ball. He can generate plays from long balls to the forwards and that was important for us. He did very well.”
Enrique also remains unconcerned by the re-emergence of his team’s penalty problems, with Luis Suarez missing the club’s ninth of the season, from 18 awarded in all competitions leaving him, Lionel Messi and Neymar with a conversion rate of 50 per cent.
Enrique said: “It’s a mere anecdote. Penalties are an area we need to improve, but it doesn’t concern me if the game is already won.”
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