BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Luis Enrique concedes that his star-studded team has yet to demonstrate the consistency needed to win a third straight La Liga title.
The Catalan giants, who host Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, fell two points further adrift of Real Madrid last weekend after a 1-1 draw at Real Betis.
Barca are four points behind Real Madrid, just past the halfway mark of the season, and the league leaders also have a game in hand.
”We’ve lacked consistency in the league in order to be higher up in the standings,“ Luis Enrique said at Friday’s news conference. ”We hope to get that in order to be up there.
”Without a doubt, the league is the competition that rewards consistency.
“It’s evident that now, at the early stage of the second half of the campaign, we need to put pressure to get as many points as possible.”
Barca eliminated Athletic Bilbao from the King’s Cup last 16 with a 4-3 aggregate win, yet Luis Enrique expects a very difficult encounter.
“It’s unlikely that we will surprise each other,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough game as it always is when facing Athletic whether it’s at home or away.”
French left-back Lucas Digne and Spanish international midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets have recovered from their respective injuries and trained with the rest of their teammates on Friday.
However, the trio will not feature against Athletic.
“It’s great news to recover players but the doctors have yet to give the green light,” Luis Enrique said.
Unlike rivals Real Madrid who have had a week to prepare for Sunday’s game at Celta Vigo, Barca were in action in midweek.
Barca won 2-1 at Atletico Madrid in their King’s Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday, with the return leg to be played next week at the Camp Nou.
“If we look at the physical demands, for sure this is the most challenging time of the season so far,” Luis Enrique said. “But we have accept the schedule and try to do the best we can.”
Reporting by Adriana Garcia; editing by Andrew Roche