Barcelona boss takes blame for shock home loss

BARCELONA • Luis Enrique admitted that he must take responsibility for the Spanish champions' shock 2-1 defeat by newly promoted Alaves after starting Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez on the bench.

The Barcelona manager made seven changes on Saturday after many members of his squad returned to club duty after taking part in World Cup qualifiers around the world in the past week, while Messi was also struggling with a minor groin injury.

"I am the one ultimately responsible for all the bad things that happen," said Enrique after suffering just his fifth home league defeat in three seasons in charge at the Camp Nou, which helped rivals Real Madrid sit alone at the top of the La Liga leader board. "Many of the changes came from the circumstances surrounding us, but we have 22 players and we are going to use every one this season."

As well as leaving out Messi and Suarez, Enrique changed his entire back four, while goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and striker Paco Alcacer made debuts.

Deyverson beat Cillessen from close range to hand Alaves a surprise lead before half-time, but Jeremy Mathieu brought Barca back into the game a minute into the second half. Mathieu somehow then blasted wide from another set-piece before Barca's makeshift defence was caught out once more when Ibai Gomez slotted home the winner.

Enrique then summoned Messi, Suarez and Andres Iniesta from the bench, but even they could not break Alaves' resistance.

Enrique is expected to revert to his strongest line-up for Celtic's visit to the Camp Nou tomorrow. The Scottish club will go into the Champions League game high on confidence after thrashing rivals Rangers 5-1 on Saturday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline 'Barcelona boss takes blame for shock home loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe