Barcelona coach Luis Enrique remains convinced his faltering team will end their winless run and retain the La Liga title after seeing their treble dreams dashed.
They have surrendered a nine-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid after losing their last three games and are now above them only due to a superior head-to-head record.
Barca, whose defence of their European crown was ended by Atletico in the Champions League quarter-finals last week, are also just one point ahead of Real Madrid.
However, Luis Enrique remained positive before the trip to Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday, after which they will have just four games left in the title race.
“I’m convinced we’re going to win the league, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be sat here,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.
“I like adversity, that’s how I am. I want to turn this around, win tomorrow and put on a show. I want to delight the fans who are behind us and can’t explain this situation.”
Luis Enrique did not give any reasons for the dramatic loss of form, which has seen his side go from 39 games unbeaten in all competitions to losing four of their last five games.
“We are on a negative run but we don’t need to exaggerate. If it’s due to psychology, then we have the best psychologist around (at the club),” he added.
“We’re clinging on to our players and their attitude and their way of competing. We have had moments like this before, we know how to cope with pressure. But we’re playing against teams that can punish us with few chances.”
Luis Enrique was also unapologetic for deriding a reporter who had asked him about the team’s fitness levels at a news conference after Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat by Valencia.
“I have nothing to apologise for. I didn’t show anyone a lack of respect,” he said. “Journalists have also shown me a lack of respect. This is my style, I don’t care if you don’t like it.”
Barcelona, who had hoped to repeat the treble they won last season, will be without influential centre back Gerard Pique at Deportivo through suspension. He is set to be replaced by Marc Bartra, who has made just three league starts this season.
We’ve won nothing, warns Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has warned the club’s fans not to get carried away, pointing out that his in-form side have won nothing yet as the three-way battle for the Spanish title hots up.
“We have won nothing. Absolutely nothing. We are in a good situation but we have won nothing,” Zidane said at a press conference ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabeu. “I don’t like to see people saying we are going to win everything.”
Madrid had been 12 points behind leaders Barcelona in March but a run of seven consecutive wins combined with a remarkable slump in form by the Catalans has allowed them to close right in.
Barcelona have lost their last three league games and are now ahead of Atletico Madrid only thanks to a better head-to-head record, with Real a point back in third.
“We need to keep working and fighting right up to the last moment because they are ahead of us as it stands,” said Zidane, whose side have a perfect league record since losing at home to Atletico at the end of February.
“At that point it was more complicated. Obviously when you lose a match against a direct rival, it is much more complicated, but what football has shown me, and what I know from my days as a player, is that nothing is ever done.”
Madrid will be without Gareth Bale due to a minor leg muscle injury for the game against a Villarreal side who are fourth in the table.
Dani Carvajal and Pepe are also missing from the Real squad. Zidane also said he thought the Wales international, whose injury was not serious, had a long future at the club.
Bale has only started 18 of 33 league games this season due to injury, missing seven weeks with a calf problem, and he ended Monday’s training session early after feeling discomfort.
Zidane expects him to return against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
“We hope it’s only a strain and I hope he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Zidane told a news conference. “The strain is in the back of his leg.”
Bale was a very important player for the team, the coach added. “He is young and can improve. He has a long future here because he has a long contract here. I have a very good relationship with him, he is a simple guy and his Spanish is improving.”
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
The joy of winning for Qatar
You block, we soar – Qatar’s success makes mockery of unjust siege
Al-Attiyah stays in control after wind and dust-hit day
Japan continues plans despite virus scare
Workers’ Cup to be held at World Cup training sites
Jabeur ousts former champ Pliskova, Kvitova advances
Al Sadd take on Al Arabi in high-voltage Qatar Derby
CHI Al Shaqab equestrian extravaganza from today
Tanvir and Rossouw shine in Multan’s victory over Peshawar