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Barcelona coach challenges stuttering team to repeat treble

Reuters , Sunday 10 Apr 2016
Luis Enrique
Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique (Reuters)

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has challenged his stuttering side to respond to Saturday's 1-0 La Liga defeat at Real Sociedad by repeating last season's treble of Champions League, domestic title and King's Cup.

Barca saw their lead at the top over nearest challengers Atletico Madrid cut to only three points with six games left, having held a nine-point advantage less than a fortnight ago, and are now just four points ahead of Real Madrid.

"It's an opportunity for us to demonstrate we're the best in the world like our shirt says," Luis Enrique told a news conference as they look to defend a 2-1 lead in their Champions league quarterfinal, second leg at Atletico on Wednesday.

"Everything is to play for and to win. No-one's going to leave here crying. At this stage last year we were only two points above second place with a worse head-to-head difference."

Barcelona host struggling Valencia next Sunday followed by a midweek trip to Deportivo with home games against Sporting Gijon and Espanyol and matches at Real Betis and Granada to follow.

They have failed to win in their last three league matches, their longest run out without a La Liga victory since Luis Enrique took charge in 2014, and the coach emphasised the importance of taking every last point.

"We obviously can't drop any more points. We weren't at our best in the last few games and this league will be won by the most consistent team in the remaining games. I want the Nou Camp fuller than ever against Valencia."

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta vowed that they would respond and said there was no reason to panic.

He told reporters: "Everything can happen over a season but we are Barca and we are close to our objective. We have to think about what's coming next, we can't make excuses. In the end the league will be won by the most consistent team."

Second-placed Atletico are at home in four of their remaining six games and look to have the easiest run-in of the three championship contenders.

Diego Simeone's side cut the gap to three points after coming from behind to win 3-1 at Espanyol and the Argentine coach said his team would not relent in their title bid.

"I was always taught that you should insist and believe in what you do," he told a news conference. "Things happen when you least expect them to and we are giving everything we have."

Real are also firmly back in the title hunt having earlier thrashed Eibar 4-0 inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo who became the first player to hit 30 La Liga goals in six consecutive seasons.

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