Villarreal vs Barcelona - Enrique remains upbeat over Barcelona's LaLiga chances

Posted Saturday, January 07, 2017 by PA

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has stressed there is still a long way to go in the domestic season as the Catalan club look to keep in touch with leaders Real Madrid with a tough trip to the Estadio El Madrigal on Sunday.

Los Blancos extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to six points following a 5-0 win over struggling Granada on Saturday, with Barca set to face high-flying Villarreal.

Barcelona returned from their winter break with a 2-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey in midweek, but despite the poor start to the new year, Enrique is not panicking about his side's form or Madrid's long unbeaten run.

Speaking at the club's pre-match press conference, the Spaniard said: "I bet there is no team who will win every league game this season.

"But what is true is we are not in the position we would like to be in, but the only way we can put pressure on the leaders is by winning our games. There is a long way still to go.

"We are playing Villarreal knowing what a good team they are this season. They have the best defensive record, their coach has done a fantastic job.

"They have stayed loyal to their philosophy of recent years, playing very attacking football, creating lots of chances but also tracking back and defending.

"We have to go there and get the three points and we will have to call on the best from the team. This is a game between two teams high in the league and against a team that is doing very well.

"It's going to be a very difficult game but who knows? Football is a funny game and the result probably won't show the equality between the two teams, but my plan is the same regardless of what happened a couple of days ago (in the cup)."

Forward Neymar has come under a little bit of criticism in recent weeks after going 10 matches without a goal, but Enrique believes the fans will not have to wait long before the Brazilian gets his name back on the scoresheet.

He added: "I think he is doing really well, we've known from Neymar's whole career that he is a mature-minded player. He's got over stressful, tense periods and I think he's the same as ever. I think he's going to score plenty of goals."

Enrique can report a full bill of health on his team, with the exception of goalkeeper Jasper Cillesen who injured himself during the break, and may stick with the same line-up that started at San Mames.

Villarreal will unveil the new name of their stadium before their clash with the reigning LaLiga champions on Sunday evening, with the Yellow Submarine also looking for a return to form following a 3-1 loss at Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

The hosts will be without Cedric Bakambu, who is with the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the African Nations Cup, while Roberto Soldado and Denis Cheryshev are also missing..

Former Real Madrid striker Soldado is still on the sidelines with a cruciate knee ligament injury picked up in August while Russian winger Cheryshev is unavailable with a muscular injury.

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