Luis Enrique has backed his Barcelona squad to handle the pressure going into their La Liga title decider at Granada on Saturday. Barcelona head into the final round of fixtures topping the table by a single point, meaning a victory and they are sure to retain their title, but anything less and Real Madrid will steal the crown away if they win at Deportivo La Coruna. With such fine margins, Enrique expects it to be a tricky occasion, but one that his players are perfectly equipped for.
“It is going to be a difficult game because of the tension of it being the last day and us still being in contention for the title,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “But otherwise, it’s going to be the same as any other game.
“We are different to other teams. These players have won so many things and are used to all kinds of vicissitudes. We lap up this kind of pressure. These games are made-to-measure for Barça players.”
Barcelona would have hoped to have had the title already wrapped up by this point. However, a run of three straight defeats last month let both Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, before their defeat to Levante last week, back in the running. Still, Barcelona have steadied the ship impressively in recent weeks, winning four straight matches by an aggregate score of 21-0.
Last time out, the Catalans swept aside the potential banana skin of a meeting with local foes Espanyol, winning 5-0 with two goals from Luis Suárez to take his tally for the season in La Liga to 37. That hasn’t, though, been enough to shake off Real Madrid. And Enrique is adamant that Barcelona cannot rely on Real Madrid to end their 11-match La Liga winning streak against Deportivo.
“We are only playing one game,” he said. “If we don’t win it, then we’ll have a look at what’s happened in the other game. I won’t be taking any interest in it until the 95th minute. I get the feeling that we’ll only win the league if we beat Granada.”
Much has been made about what Granada’s motivation will be, having already secured their safety in La Liga with a 4-1 win over Sevilla last week. But coach José González has stressed that because of the importance of the match in the title race he feels duty bound to approach it with the utmost commitment and with a full-strength team.
“If they [Barcelona] do things right they will win, but we will try and not let that happen,” Gonzalez said according to Spanish sports newspaper Marca. “He also made it clear he won't rest any players despite his team having nothing to play for.
“If it had been another type of game I would give some match time to players who deserve to play. But we have to go into this game with the utmost professionalism possible. I will put my best team out there, like we did against Sevilla and Las Palmas. We will suffer, run a lot after the ball and probably won't enjoy the game too much.”
Prediction: Barcelona have looked unwavering in recent weeks, but they will be desperate for an early goal on Saturday to settle the nerves that will surely be present. And Enrique’s side may not have things all their own way against a Granada outfit unbeaten in their last six home matches. Still, Barcelona’s attacking quality, led by Suárez, should get the job done.
Predicted score: Granada 1-3 Barcelona
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EDT
TV channel: beIN Sports en Español
Live stream: beIN Sports Connect