Barcelona still under pressure despite unbeaten run - Luis Enrique
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said his team still feel under pressure to keep up their winning La Liga run, ahead of Thursday's game at Rayo Vallecano.
Barca go into the game looking for a tenth straight La Liga victory, to further strengthen their hold on the title race. Amid a record run of 34 games unbeaten in all competitions, many Blaugrana pundits are already speaking about a repeat of last season's Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey treble.
Despite the Catalan side's Primera Division lead narrowing to five points after Atletico Madrid's 3-0 win over Real Sociedad on Tuesday night, Luis Enrique said he and his side still felt they were in the title race and could not afford to take their foot off the gas.
"It affects us the same way as always, as always with three points for a win, any slip can be costly," Luis Enrique said at his prematch news conference. "Atletico are not slipping, they keep improving, and there is still a title race. We have never said anything different at any moment."
Rayo are currently unbeaten in seven games to rise to 16th in the table, however Barca have won all 10 most recent meetings with Paco Jemez's side, including the last four at the Estadio Vallecas, by an aggregate score of 18-0.
"I would not trust at all heading into any game against Rayo, at home or away," Luis Enrique said. "For the team's identity, for what Paco gives them, the players know it will be a difficult game. Each ball will have to be battled for. They are open and uncomfortable games, regardless of the result."
Right-back Dani Alves is suspended for the game, meaning either Aleix Vidal or Sergi Roberto are likely to step in, and Luis Enrique would not say if he was likely to rest any of this big name attacking trio Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
"I always think about making changes," he said. "I have not yet thought about whether they will play all the games. I will do what I think is best. Don't worry - whatever I do will be best for the team. We will not take any risks."
Asked why his team were arriving at the end of the season with almost all their players available, while Real Madrid have been hit by a string of fitness issues, as lamented last weekend by Blancos superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Luis Enrique replied: "I don't know. I guess there is not just one reason. For sure we have very good medical services."