Luis Enrique keen to see Barcelona defensive improvements

Andy West 06:41 26/09/2015
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Concerned: Enrique.

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique admits his team must undertake a significant collective improvement defensively in the wake of Wednesday’s crushing 4-1 defeat at Celta Vigo.

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It was Barca’s heaviest league defeat since May 2008, when they lost by the same scoreline at Real Madrid, and also means they have conceded 16 goals in nine fixtures so far this season, keeping only two clean sheets.

Celta have joined Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao in scoring four goals against Barca’s vulnerable defence in the last six weeks, but rather than pointing fingers at individuals Enrique claimed the responsibility lies with the whole team.

“The defence isn’t just the goalkeeper and the back four,” he said. “It is everyone. “It would be very easy for me to say they have been individual errors but it’s the whole team that loses points.

“We have to improve both collectively and individually, and we all know that.”

As part of Enrique’s ‘collective responsibility’ message, he also partially exonerated goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen from blame for the team’s defensive lapses.

Ter Stegen was absent from the line-up during their only two clean sheets of the season, but injury to Claudio Bravo threw the young German back into the firing line and he has now conceded 16 goals in just seven outings.

But Enrique repeated his message of solidarity, saying: “Ter Stegen or Bravo don’t concede goals – Barca do.

“Goalkeeper is a unique position because you can see so clearly what they have done, but receiving criticism is part of the DNA of every footballer.”

Barca have also been unusually goal-shy, scoring just nine goals in their opening five league games – well below last season’s average of nearly three goals per game.

However, Enrique is confident that his superstar strike force of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar will soon start firing on all cylinders, and insisted that Wednesday’s defeat was due to the team’s weaknesses at the back.

“We created 17 goalscoring chances, but the problem was that they had more. We didn’t get it right at the back,” he reflected. “We are creating as much as last season, but not scoring as often. I don’t have any doubt that it’s temporary.”

Enrique also suggested he will field his strongest team despite the upcoming Champions League meeting with Bayer Leverkusen, saying: “If I rotated and we lost, there would be a huge outcry.”

Saturday’s opponents Las Palmas come to the Nou Camp full of confidence after making a bright start to life in the top flight, with Wednesday’s 2-0 home win over Sevilla coming hot on the heels of a 3-3 draw at Barca’s midweek conquerors Celta.

Although he accepted that the game is one his team are fully expected to win comfortably, Enrique said: “They will present us with many difficulties.”

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