La Liga, not old Espanyol ghosts on the line- Luis Enrique
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique insisted his side won’t be distracted by local rivals Espanyol’s desire to destroy their La Liga title chances in the Catalan derby on Sunday.
Luis Enrique’s men hold the slenderest of advantages in the title race with two games remaining as they lead Atletico Madrid thanks to their better head-to-head record while Real Madrid lie a point behind in third.
In eerily similar circumstances Barca were embroiled in a three-way title race with Sevilla and Real when Espanyol travelled to the Camp Nou on the penultimate day of the season nine years ago.
Then, a last-minute equaliser from Raul Tamudo, which came to be known as the “Tamudazo”, snatched the title from Barca’s grasp and allowed Real to be crowned champions the following weekend.
“The Tamudazo doesn’t interest me at all. I don’t remember what happened four weeks ago let alone nine years,” Luis Enrique said on Saturday.
“I am only worried about being better than Espanyol.
“They are different games. It is a derby where the league is in play so it is even more transcendental.
“It is our last game at home and we have to go for it from the off.”
Barca’s once commanding nine-point lead was whittled down due to three consecutive league defeats last month.
However, they have scored 16 goals without reply in winning their last three matches and the coach believes his side have shown the character needed to turn the situation around and retain their title.
“I don’t see there being a delicate situation here. The only thing is that we have lost our advantage.
“In the lst three games we have won 8-0, 6-0 and 2-0. We have lost the advantage because our rivals keep winning, but the league is won in 38 games not in 30, nor in 10.”
Indeed, Barca could even be proclaimed champions on Sunday if they win, Atletico lose at already relegated Levante and Real drop points at home to Valencia.
Both Atletico and Real booked their places in the Champions League final in midweek and Luis Enrique is hoping for a European hangover for the sides from the Spanish capital to avoid Barca needing to win at a Granada side fighting for their lives next weekend.
“Tomorrow we have the chance to be champions. Why not? We are the only ones with that possibility,” he added.
“I am only interested in tomorrow’s game. We will then see what happens and if Granada are safe or not. We are concentrating on Espanyol and the chance to win three points which could make us champions.”
Luis Enrique is expected to make just one change from the side that beat Real Betis last weekend with Marc-Andre ter Stegen replacing the injured Claudio Bravo in goal.
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