Luis Enrique has insisted his squad remain fully confident of landing their fifth trophy of 2015, despite going into Monday’s Spanish Super Cup second leg at the Camp Nou staring at a 4-0 deficit to Athletic Bilbao. Last season’s treble winners showed the full effects of a draining extra-time UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla in Tbilisi just 72 hours earlier when being torn apart by Athletic in Bilbao on Friday.
Against opponents they defeated 3-1 in the Copa del Rey final less than three months ago, a hat-trick from Aritz Aduriz condemned Barcelona to their joint-heaviest defeat in more than a decade. The task awaiting the Catalans at the Camp Nou then is a substantial one, but Enrique is far from writing off his team’s chances.
“We are completely convinced that if we do things well we will have a chance," Enrique said on Sunday, reports Barcelona-based daily Sport. “There is no doubt we will try to do it. I have looked at the statistics and last season we scored four or more goals in 18 games. We have the potential and we are alive. When Barça play well anything can happen.”
Despite again having just two days off between matches, Enrique has said that his team will be “fresher than in the first leg.” However, he still has ample fitness concerns. While Neymar remains sidelined with mumps, fellow-Brazilian Adriano has suffered a groin strain to join Jordi Alba on the sidelines and leave Barcelona short in the left-back role.
After making five changes to the team between the win over Sevilla and the contest at San Mames, the side is likely to see further alterations on Monday. Having started on the bench in the first leg, captain Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are expected to come back into the first team, despite Barcelona beginning their Primera Division title defense against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Their opponents’ fixture list is even more hectic this week, with Athletic also having a Europa League qualifier against Zilina in Slovakia on Thursday. Given that Athletic’s squad remains stretched thin by injuries, there could be a temptation to give some key players a rest at the Camp Nou. Yet, with a first title for the club in 31 years in their sights, coach Ernesto Valverde has stressed the importance of the contest for the Basque outfit.
“It would mean a lot -- I will elaborate on why if we do manage to win it,” he said, reports Spanish sports daily AS. “For Barça it’s another piece of silverware, it’s not like winning the Champions League or the league but it means everything to us because it has been such a long time since we won a trophy.”
Valverde wouldn’t disclose whether the likes of forward Iñaki Williams would be fit to return, although long-term injury victim Iker Muniain is still sidelined and Mikel Rico and Ander Iturraspe are expected to miss out.
Kickoff time: 4 p.m. EDT
TV channel: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
Live stream: Watch ESPN