Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have scored 107 goals between them this season but after Barcelona’s celebrated trio failed to find the net in the defeat by Real Madrid, coach Luis Enrique defended them by declaring “they aren’t machines”.
Luis Enrique said he was not concerned about the physical state of his all-star attacking line despite their below-par performance in Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat.
Although Real halted their 39-game unbeaten run, the 45-year-old coach said he retained full confidence in his side as they prepared to host Atletico Madrid in the first leg of an all-Spanish Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday.
Messi (37), Suarez (43) and Neymar (27) have 107 goals between them in all competitions this season but Barca’s only goal on Saturday came from defender Gerard Pique.
“They aren’t machines, they are the best players in their position but they aren’t unbeatable or unsurpassable,” Luis Enrique told a news conference on Monday.
“I think all my players are in perfect condition. We had forgotten what it was like to lose but when you do you remember how difficult it is to win and we all hope the defeat serves as a stimulus to win again. Looking at how we have done in the last few months, I’m optimistic.”
Pique reaffirmed his coach’s belief in the three South American forwards.
“Our three attackers are on another level, from another world. I’m not worried about them at all, it’s impossible for us to have more faith in them, they have brutal qualities and we’re so lucky to have them at Barca,” he said.
The Spain international was also adamant his team would bounce back from the defeat to Real, but said Atletico would pose his side even more problems than Zinedine Zidane’s men did.
“We’re not scared of them but they are having a spectacular season, they are the second best team (in La Liga) and it’s going to be even harder for us than Saturday,” Pique said.
Diego Simeone’s robust side have conceded only three goals in eight Champions League matches this season, the joint best record in the competition alongside Real. They also have the meanest defence in La Liga, letting in 15 goals in 31 games — 11 fewer than Barcelona.
Atletico pipped Barca to the La Liga title in 2014 and knocked them out of the Champions League in the same season en route to the final.
They are six points behind Luis Enrique’s side in La Liga and warmed up for their trip to Barcelona by thrashing Real Betis 5-1 on Saturday.
However, Pique reiterated his confidence in his own team, who have beaten Atletico in all six matches under Luis Enrique.
“We’ll see how they approach the game but it’s all down to us, we need to move the ball around quickly and for the fans to put pressure on them,” he said. “If that happens we’re practically unstoppable.”