Barcelona boss Luis Enrique defiantly backed his side to pull off an incredible comeback in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Monday after being thrashed 4-0 by Athletic Club.
An under-strength Barça side were torn apart by Athletic on Friday as Mikel San Jose’s stunning opener and a second-half hat-trick from Aritz Aduriz put them on the verge of a first trophy in 31 years.
“If there is anyone who can turn this around it is Barça. We will wait till Monday and will give everything we have,” said Enrique.
The European champions lifted their fourth trophy of the year earlier in the week, but were equally as suspect in defence as they threw away a 4-1 lead before overcoming Sevilla 5-4 in extra time. It is the first time in 14 years that Barça have conceded four times in two consecutive games and comes as even more of a shock as it took 13 games for the Catalans to concede eight times last season.
“It worries me that we are conceding so many goals,” added Enrique. “We will analyse it and try to correct it. Football is a game of errors. Curiously, we have gone from being the team that it is hardest to score against to conceding easily.”
Having played 120 minutes in the searing heat of the Georgian capital Tblisi on Tuesday, Enrique had opted to rest a number of his star names from the start in Bilbao. Barça also recently completed a gruelling pre-season tour in the United States and have a host of players returning from international duty at the Copa America.
However, Enrique refused to blame his side’s punishing schedule as an excuse for their lacklustre performance.
“We came from competing barely three days ago. I made a lot of changes to the starting 11 and I accept the responsibility as always. I believe I had to protect the players. This isn’t the point of the season to burden some players with 120 minutes. I don’t think it is the moment to look for excuses. It is how it is and I accept that.”
Dani Alves was one of those most at fault as he was beaten by Sabin Merino to set up Aduriz’s first and then pulled down Borja Etxeita for the penalty from which the veteran striker completed his hat-trick. And he too refused to cite fatigue as an excuse for his side’s awful defending.
“It is not normal to concede eight goals in two games, but that is the level of level we are at. Everything is equal and what you have done in the previous games doesn’t matter,” said the Brazilian full-back. “We need to be at our best at the Camp Nou and try to come back. We need to compete and be better in defence. It is not the time to look for excuses like tiredness, the journeys or the pre-season. We have to improve everything.”