Barcelona's Luis Enrique: Neymar rested, not benched; not chasing Pep
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique explained that Neymar, who has scored in just one of his last nine games for the club, was not dropped in Barcelona's 4-0 defeat of Almeria on Wednesday, but rested due to his international exertions with Brazil recently and to allow Pedro Rodriguez to get 90 rare minutes on the pitch.
"[Neymar] is the only one who did not rest with his national team," he said. "And we need Pedro to be in the best state possible."
The Barcelona coach also said he was not concerned with passing past records after seeing his side claim their 20th win in their last 21 games.
That run has seen Barca climb clear at the top of the La Liga table, into the Copa del Rey final and the Champions League quarterfinals, and is a better stretch of victories than was even managed during Josep Guardiola's hugely successful spell at the club between 2008 and 2012.
Asked at his postmatch news conference whether overcoming such historical marks was a particular satisfaction, the current Blaugrana coach said he was only focusing on the present.
"This is about overcoming our current challenges," Luis Enrique said. "We are on that path."
A much-changed Barca were always in control against struggling Almeria, who came into the game having taken just two points and scored two goals in their last six games, a run which lead to a change of coach this week.
Luis Enrique said that starting with intensity and using the space wide [from which both Messi and Suarez advanced into the area to score] had been key, while it was normal that the pace of the game had dropped once Barca had a good lead.
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"We carried the game due to the intensity we put in," he said. "Almeria allowed us to have the ball in the centre, and on the wings. We took advantage of that space out wide. We did not suffer at the back. It was not an easy game, and the team showed good intensity, although they were not too fresh. This reinforces us to go to Sevilla [on Saturday]. At 2-0 or 3-0 it is normal that the game went as we saw."
That trip to Sevilla, who are unbeaten at home since Barca's last visit 14 months ago, should be a more difficult game for Barca, who also face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarterfinals and top-four chasing Valencia in La Liga in the next fortnight.
"This will be an attractive run of games," Luis Enrique said. "But I do not know if it is the most difficult. Very high level opponents are coming in La Liga, and everything is on the line in the Champions League."