Bilbao: A dejected FC Barcelona manager Luis Enrique defended his team selection after the Catalan powerhouse suffered a 0-4 humiliation to Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa here.
Enrique decided to leave Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets out of the starting line-up, while Jeremy Mathieu did not travel for the game. Neymar remained out after contracting mumps. Starting in their place were Pedro Rodriguez, Marc Bartra, Sergi Roberto, Thomas Vermaelen and Adriano.
The changes proved to be disastrous for the Spanish champions as a series of defensive mistakes allowed Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz to pile on the humiliation with a second half hattrick within a span of 15 minutes after Mikel San Jose had put the hosts ahead with a superb 45-yard strike. Enrique insisted that said the changes were required after Sevilla took them to extra-time in a gruelling UEFA Super Cup tie three days earlier.
“There were a lot of changes but it had to be that way after playing for 120 minutes (on Tuesday),” he told the media after the match. “I have made changes to the side and I accept the responsibility for the loss without hesitation.”
This was Barcelona’s biggest defeat under Enrique. They have now conceded four goals in two consecutive games, a fact that concerns the manager. “Football is a game of errors but we have gone from a side that concedes fewest to one that concedes too easily,” Enrique said. “Of course I am concerned about the goals we have conceded. We will try to correct that.”
Enrique however, is not ready to give up Barcelona’s quest to win six trophies in 2015, saying the Catalans can still win the Super Cup in the second leg at the Camp Nou on Monday. “We will still try with all we’ve got. It is not being arrogant to think that we can come out on top,” he asserted. “This was not our best performance but still we were not fortunate.”
“I’ve never played an easy game against Athletic. I congratulate them, but on Monday there will be another atmosphere,” he added. “Is a comeback possible? This was just the first half.” “If anyone can turn this result around its Barca.”