MADRID (AP) — Barcelona is beatable and faces problems when opponents try to come up with different ways to stop the team, coach Luis Enrique said Wednesday.
One game away from becoming the first Spanish club to play 35 consecutive matches without a loss, Luis Enrique said Barcelona is being scrutinized more closely after every victory and it has not been easy to keep the unbeaten streak going. He dismissed the notion that opponents have run out of ways of stopping his team.
"It would be wonderful, but no, I don't feel that's the case," Luis Enrique said. "What I've been noticing is that our rivals have been creating problems for us recently. More and more they study us, they come up with new ways, they try different things."
There's no denying Barcelona has been thriving — it has won nine straight games in the Spanish league and hasn't lost since October. But it has struggled in a few games, including last week in a 2-1 home win over Sevilla and a few rounds ago in a 2-0 win against last-place Levante.
Its latest setback at home was a 2-2 draw against Deportivo La Coruna, which surprised the Catalan club by playing three players up front instead of concentrating on defending.
"Our rivals are trying things," Luis Enrique said. "There are great coaches here (in the league), they have come up with ways of making us face difficulties."
Luis Enrique said the Spanish league remains open even though Barcelona has a comfortable advantage over second-place Atletico Madrid, which cut the lead to five points after defeating Real Sociedad 3-0 on Tuesday. Barcelona can bring the lead back to eight points on Thursday when it plays at Rayo Vallecano, a team it hasn't lost to in 14 years. Third-place Real Madrid was 12 points behind Barcelona entering the 27th round.
"With the three-point system, any stumble is costly and advantages can be reduced very quickly," Luis Enrique said. "Atletico doesn't falter. It has been playing its own style of football and it has been improving recently. There are still a lot of points up for grabs."
With a win or a draw on Thursday, Barcelona will break Real Madrid's unbeaten record of 34 games set in 1988-89. Barcelona's last defeat was a 2-1 result at Sevilla in the league's seventh round.
"It's clear that Barca has its own identity," Luis Enrique said. "We have been playing the same way for years, we can't deny that."
Luis Enrique said he might rest some of his top players in upcoming matches, including forwards Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Barcelona is in the round of 16 of the Champions League and in the final of the Copa del Rey against Sevilla on May 22.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni