By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has played down talk of a rift with his squad after their surprise home defeat by Alaves and is hoping to put things right in their Champions League opener against Celtic on Tuesday.
Spanish sports website Diario Gol reported on Monday that some players responded to a telling off following the 2-1 La Liga reverse on Saturday by questioning Luis Enrique’s decision to make eight changes to the team.
“We talk after every game to correct things and to reinforce other aspects but what happens in those meetings is only important for the players and staff,” he told a news conference on Monday.
“We always talk with the players to try and put them on the right track to win the game but it is not an exact science.”
Barca’s defeat was their first in 12 competitive matches and Luis Enrique said it was good for the players to be back in action so soon after losing to La Liga newcomers Alaves.
“This team has a great recent history, two great years with us in charge, and it appears we can’t fail but it happens,” he added in reference to their treble success in his debut campaign and La Liga-King’s Cup double last season.
“The team has reacted well. They are annoyed obviously because they don’t like losing and are not used to losing at home.
“We have the shortest turnaround you can have between games. The players are … desperate to compete and play again at the Nou Camp.”
Barca beat Celtic 3-1 in a pre-season friendly in July and are facing them for the third time in four years.
Brendan Rodgers has reinvigorated the Glasgow club since taking over from Ronny Deila in the close season, qualifying for the group stages after a two-year absence and overseeing a 5-1 thumping of fierce local rivals Rangers on Saturday.
“There were a lot easier teams than Celtic but we welcome the challenge of playing against a historic club,” said Luis Enrique as he spoke of his admiration for former Liverpool coach Rodgers.
“He loves good football, he likes to play on the front foot, take the game to the opposition and you can see that already in his short time at Celtic.
“He has made good signings, players that will cause us problems. I like Rodgers and his idea of how to play football.”
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)