Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi / AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO
Barcelona boss Luis Enrique insists his side’s reliance on Lionel Messi is perfectly normal when you have “the best player in the world” on your side.
Messi has kept Barca’s La Liga title challenge alive with late winners in 2-1 wins over Leganes and Atletico Madrid in their last two outings to take his tally for the season to 35 goals in as many games.
However, Barca have still to tie down Messi’s long-term future at the Camp Nou. The five-time World Player of the Year has just over a year to run on his contract with talks over a new deal ongoing.
“It would be naive to think we wouldn’t depend on the best player in the world,” said Enrique on Tuesday.
“Hopefully we can depend on him for many years to come.”
Victory at Atletico eased somewhat the mounting pressure on Enrique after a 4-0 thrashing at Paris Saint-Germain two weeks ago left the Catalans on the verge of bowing out at the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in 10 years.
In particular, his tactical shift from Barca’s traditional possession based game to a more direct style designed to get the best out of a superstar front three of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar has been criticised.
However, Enrique insisted ahead of Sporting Gijon’s visit to the Camp Nou on Wednesday, that possession is only a means to an end.
“The key to having possession is not just to have it for the sake of it, but to have possession as a means of reaching a goal, and the goal is winning games,” he added.
“If the opponent sits back and allows long passages of play in possession they don’t leave you spaces to find gaps.
“If they decide to press high and leave space then it doesn’t make sense too not take advantage of that and in two touches overcome the press to score a goal.”
Enrique hopes to have Javier Mascherano and Arda Turan back from injury for the visit of struggling Sporting, who sit two points off safety in 18th.
And with tougher tests against Celta Vigo and the return leg with PSG to come in the next week, Enrique is expected to make sweeping changes from the side that started against Atletico with the likes of Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes also set to return.