Messi needs to rest, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says

The logistics of Barcelona’s North American tour are tough enough, with coach Luis Enrique making no apologies for letting stars including Lionel Messi skip the pre-season excursion.

The Spanish giants landed in Los Angeles on Sunday to begin preparations for a three-match tour that opens with a game against Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday.

Enrique and captain Andres Iniesta were fresh off the bus from the airport when they met with the media, the team having been cheered upon arrival at their hotel by a gaggle of Barcelona fans.

Asked if he owed those fans a chance to see players like Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi and Brazilian Neymar, Enrique said his first duty was to get those players some much-needed time off.

“That’s simple to answer,” he said. “We have to give a certain minimum number of days of vacation for players to recover from a season that is seemingly eternal,” said Enrique, who has excused Messi, Neymar, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, midfielder Javier Mascherano and fullback Dani Alvez from the tour after they competed in the Copa America.

“The bottom line is, these players need to rest.”

After taking on the Galaxy, the Champions League winners will travel north to take on Manchester United at the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.

They complete their US swing against English champions Chelsea on July 28 in suburban Washington DC.

They will play Fiorentina in Florence on August 2 as part of the same International Champions Cup exhibition tournament.

“As a trainer, the truth is I would rather not do tours,” Enrique admitted.

Like many other managers, he finds the travel demands and other details take time away from training.

“Even though the countries can be great and it can be great to travel, things like the change of time zones can have repercussions and you can have fewer trainings and that can affect the team negatively.”

Although the tour includes such potentially distracting sidelines as meetings with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant as well as with members of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Enrique and Iniesta are both keen to get the focus on the field.

“As far as training goes, the beginning is very important,” Iniesta said. “That is what counts because you have not trained for a long time.”

The team travelled shortly after the re-election of Josep Maria Bartomeu as president of the club by their members.

Incumbent Bartomeu saw off rival Joan Laporta in an election that Bartomeu called early, when tensions within the club were running high because of poor relations between Enrique and Messi.

Enrique declined to address the election on Sunday, while Iniesta said he hoped the resolution would allow the club to focus on trying to repeat the stellar feats of last season, when they won the treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa Del Rey.

Photo Credits : AFP

Messi nets 400th goal as Barca edge past Valencia

Lionel Messi scored the 400th goal of his Barcelona career as the Catalans beat Champions League-chasing Valencia 2-0 to move five points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Saturday.

Luis Suarez got Barca off to a flying start as he slotted home the opener after just 54 seconds from Messi’s through ball.

However, it was Valencia who enjoyed the majority of the chances thereafter and they were left to rue Dani Parejo’s missed penalty in the first half.

And Messi made sure of all three points with the final kick of the game after Diego Alves had saved his initial effort.

Madrid can move back to within two points of the leaders when they host Malaga later on Saturday.

Defeat, meanwhile, leaves Valencia still a point adrift of third-placed Atletico Madrid, who are in action away to Deportivo la Coruna.

Suarez scored two wonderful individual goals as Barca all but secured their place in the Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 win away to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

And he took less than a minute to pick up from where he left off in the French capital as Sergio Busquets fed Messi and his pass was fired low past Diego Alves by Suarez for his 12th goal in as many games.

However, Valencia went on to dominate the remainder of the opening 45 minutes and were desperately unlucky still to be behind at the break.

Rodrigo flashed a shot just wide before he was deemed to have been brought down inside the area by Gerard Pique.

Parejo’s penalty was poorly struck, though, and Bravo made a comfortable save low to his right.

Paco Alcacer then had a hat-trick of chances to grab a deserved equaliser as he turned Andre Gomes’s dangerous cross wide, saw a goalbound effort blocked by Pique and struck the outside of the post.

However, it could have been even worse for the visitors had Messi not sliced wide a great chance on his weaker right foot five minutes before half-time.

Barca boss Luis Enrique introduced Ivan Rakitic for Adriano at half-time in a tactical rejig to gain more control in midfield and Valencia found chances much more difficult to come by in the second period.

Messi was first to threaten after the break as he sent a dipping free-kick off the crossbar 25 minutes from time.

Luis Enrique then took the slightly surprising decision to replace Suarez with Pedro Rodriguez to keep the former Liverpool striker fresh for the return leg against PSG on Tuesday.

Bravo was needed to come to his side’s rescue once more 15 minutes from time when he turned the ball behind from Rodrigo’s volley.

But it was Messi who had the final word as he was given all the space he needed to break clear and score his 400th goal in 471 games for Barca in stoppage time as Valencia chased in vain for an equaliser.

Photo Credits : AFP

Barcelona coach Enrique confident Suarez will find his feet

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique insisted Friday he was untroubled by Luis Suarez’s form despite the Uruguayan striker scoring just five times since his arrival last year.

The 27-year-old has played 16 times for Barcelona since his four-month ban for biting an opponent during the World Cup expired at the end of October.

Although his relationship with Barcelona partners Lionel Messi and Neymar seems good the Uruguayan has failed to match the form which saw him score 31 goals for Liverpool last season.

“All players have failures at some times in a match. Luis Suarez can have very good statistics and he will have them, I’m certain,” said Enrique ahead of their Liga trip to Elche on Saturday.

“In the area and outside, I’ve seen few players move better than Luis Suarez. Why would I be worried?”

Suarez on Wednesday missed a chance to score in Barcelona’s 1-0 Spanish Cup win against Atletico Madrid despite being alone on front of goal.

But the fans have continued to support the player who arrived after the World Cup from Liverpool for 81 million euros ($91 million)

“These are periods that all strikers know, suddenly it’s like the goal isn’t that near. But he has opportunities in each game, he gives us a lot and we’re delighted with his performance.”

“When a player changes country and team, it’s about adapting and there is no magic formula. He’s perfectly integrated into the team on a daily basis. No aspect of Luis Suarez’s game worries me and I’m sure he’s going to score goals.”

Barcelona are second in La Liga one point behind Real Madrid.

Photo Credits : AFP

Barcelona coach gives board an ultimatum: It’s either me or Messi

Embattled Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has told the board that he and Lionel Messi can no longer work together, with the Argentine captain also considering his future at the Catalan club.

“The wider situation at Camp Nou has become so poisonous that, following the departures of sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and club legend Carles Puyol and the subsequent revelations about the relationship between Messi and his coach, an emergency meeting was called on Wednesday,” according to Goal.

“The club’s senior players are to act as intermediaries between Messi and Luis Enrique in an attempt to restore harmony within the ranks, but the relationship now looks broken beyond repair and Barca are already looking at possible alternatives to the Asturian coach.

“Things were tense between player and coach in the months leading up until Christmas, but it came to a head in an argument on January 2 as Messi returned to training with Barca after his holidays in South America,” according to the website.


Lionel Messi divorce on the cards?

The future of Lionel Messi at Barcelona has been thrown into doubt after reports of a fallout between the player and head coach Luis Enrique.
Enrique’s position is not thought to be under threat despite reports of a confrontation between Messi and Barca’s board over the authoritarian approach of the club’s former midfielder.

Messi missed training on Monday due to an upset stomach but remains linked in Spain with a summer move to Chelsea, Manchester City or Paris St-Germain.

The front page of Spanish newspaper Marca Tuesday highlighted Messi’s apparent discontent and sparked speculation of a possible move by Messi to Chelsea.

The rumours add to the general air of turbulence at Barca, who sacked Andoni Zubizarreta as their sporting director.

Carles Puyol quit as his assistant on Monday, less than 24 hours after a shock defeat to David Moyes’s Real Sociedad.

Barcelona are not allowed to do business in the transfer market until 2016 after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed an appeal against the Fifa ban imposed on them in April for breaching rules on signing players aged under 18.