Luis Enrique plays it cool as Barcelona’s expectations soar

Barcelona are heading into Saturday’s Champions League final against Juventus with optimism at sky-high levels among blaugrana fans, as a season which at one point seemed set for crisis looks increasingly likely to end in glorious historic success.

Luis Enrique plays it cool as Barcelona’s expectations soar

With expectation mounting in Catalonia that Barca are set to win just a second ever ‘treble’ of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey trophies, there was a relaxed mood at Tuesday’s official UEFA media ‘open day’ at Barca’s Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training ground.

Asked if he felt a victory on Saturday would help him prove wrong those pundits who had criticised him heavily at low points earlier in his first season in charge, Barca coach Luis Enrique said he and his staff were preparing for the game more or less like any other.

“I don’t live in a world of extremisms,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m the same now as at the start of the season. I just do my work and enjoy it. We’ll do the same routine with the players, many of them have been in this situation before. We’ve had a very good Champions League, beaten the champions of England, France, Germany, now we play against the Italian champions.

"Finals always have a very important psychological aspect, but we’re convinced we’ll play a good game.”

Barca have only lost two matches in almost six months as they have sealed the Liga and Copa crowns, with the front line of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez regularly blowing away opponents. The team were however taking nothing for granted, versatile Argentina international Javier Mascherano told reporters.

“Unbeatable doesn’t exist in football,” he said. “We’ve the ability to win, but also an opponent in front of us. We’ll try and leave the minimum possible up to fate. This is a final, lots of things can happen that are out of your control.”

Mascherano was in the last Barcelona side which won the trophy in 2011 – meaning he is one of the remaining squad members in line to lift it again. The former Liverpool player, who lost the 2007 final when at Anfield, was asked if losing this particular fixture was the hardest defeat to take in football.

“No the worst is to lose a World Cup final,” he shot back, recalling his experience in last summer’s decider against Germany.

“But apart from that, to win any trophy is always a nice feeling. And it’s true that winning the Champions League gives you a different prestige as a player. It’s one of the things you play for. Hopefully after Saturday our careers will have more prestige than before.”

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