Barcelona boss Luis Enrique expects Neymar to keep his cool

28 April 2017 14:41

Luis Enrique has backed Neymar to keep his cool during Barcelona’s derby trip to face Espanyol on Sunday.

The Brazil forward is back from a three-match suspension, having been sent off for two bookable offences in the defeat at Malaga earlier this month.

The severity of his punishment was in part due to Neymar sarcastically applauding the fourth official as he left the field.

Three consecutive wins in his absence, including a thrilling Lionel Messi-inspired triumph in El Clasico last weekend, have returned Barca to the top of LaLiga at Real Madrid’s expense.

Luis Enrique is buoyed to have Neymar back for the final stretch of the title race and believes he will take a hostile atmosphere at Estadi Cornella-El Prat in his stride.

“Neymar’s ready to compete,” Luis Enrique said at a pre-match news conference.

“I think Neymar is a specialist at dealing with these situations. If there is a player who receives the most fouls in the danger zone, that’s Neymar.

“He’s not been sent off very often and I think he controls his emotions very well, but there is no doubt tomorrow’s game is one where we will have to control our emotions very well.”

Luis Enrique studiously worked to avoid any pre-derby controversy, with the title race reaching fever pitch.

Madrid still have a game in hand on Barca, meaning the reigning champions need their bitter rivals to lose one of their remaining fixtures to cede control of the battle for LaLiga.

Zinedine Zidane’s side travel to face a Malaga team coached by former Madrid favourite Michel on the final day of the season.

Speaking about the possibility of handing Barcelona the title, as a Tenerife side led by another ex-Madrid man Jorge Valdano did by thwarting Los Blancos late in 1991-92 and 1992-93, Michel this week proclaimed himself to be “much more of a Madridista” than even Valdano.

Asked after Wednesday’s 7-1 win over Osasuna whether Barca could expect any favours from Malaga, Luis Enrique cryptically said “If my grandmother had wheels, she would be a bicycle”.

Despite Barcelona reporting Malaga president Abdullah Al Thani to Spain’s anti-violence commission after an insulting tweet amid the fallout to Michel’s comments, the Catalan side’s head coach was not so colourfully quotable on Friday.

“I have no interest in talking about these things,” he said. “They have nothing to do with the next game we’re playing against Espanyol and that has been my policy for the last three years.”

Having also sidestepped questions over his reportedly fractious relationship with Espanyol boss Quique Sanchez Flores and on-loan Barca man Munir’s wish to help Valencia to victory against Madrid on Saturday, Luis Enrique dismissed an accusation that Messi’s celebration of his stunning winning goal last weekend – where he held his shirt aloft for a prolonged period in front of the Santiago Bernabeu faithful – was overly provocative.

“I’m not going to get involved in these controversy-seeking questions,” he added. “I never have done and even less so now I’m a manager. It’s really not my thing.”

Barcelona will assess captain Andres Iniesta ahead of the Espanyol match after he missed training on Friday with an adductor problem.

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