Enrique's joy at rampant Barca

Barcelona star Lionel Messi wheeling away after scoring the first of his three goals against Rayo Vallecano in the Spanish La Liga on Thursday. With the 5-1 win, Barca are now eight points ahead of Atletico Madrid in the league and are 12 points in f
Barcelona star Lionel Messi wheeling away after scoring the first of his three goals against Rayo Vallecano in the Spanish La Liga on Thursday. With the 5-1 win, Barca are now eight points ahead of Atletico Madrid in the league and are 12 points in front of Real.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

They've got big La Liga lead, are in Cup final, doing well in Europe and on 35-game streak

BARCELONA • After setting a Spanish-record 35 matches unbeaten in all competitions, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique is relishing the run-in to the end of the season with his side on course for a second successive La Liga, King's Cup and Champions League treble.

Barcelona visit Eibar tomorrow with an eight-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of standings with 11 matches to go.

They take a 2-0 lead into the home leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Arsenal next week and face Sevilla in the King's Cup final on May 22.

For Luis Enrique, all the hard work during the season has brought them to this point.

"Now is when the nicest part of the season starts, you are where you wanted (to be) from the beginning, fighting for titles," he said after Thursday's 5-1 away win over nine-man Rayo Vallecano in La Liga. "Then we must see what we achieve.

A GOOD PLACE TO BE

Now is when the nicest part of the season starts, you are where you wanted (to be) from the beginning, fighting for titles.

LUIS ENRIQUE, Barcelona manager, on his team reaching the tail end of a football season in great form.

"For now, I'm pleased with how the season has progressed, all the work that has brought us here.

"We always know the difficulties that a team like Rayo can present, but we overcame those in the best way with the attitude, intensity and ruthlessness.

"We played very well and when we are at this level in terms of attitude and intensity, it is very hard for the opponents."

The only negative on the night for the Catalans was another missed penalty. Luis Suarez failed to build on his two-goal lead over Cristiano Ronaldo in the fight to be La Liga's top scorer, when his spot kick was brilliantly saved by Juan Carlos in the second half.

Barca have now missed six of their 13 penalties in the league this season with the star front trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar all unsuccessful twice.

Still, Barca's prolific front three have scored a combined 62 goals in La Liga, after Messi notched a hat-trick on Thursday.

Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring, while a late Arda Turan strike sealed the points. It was the Turkey captain's first goal for the club since joining the side from Atletico Madrid.

Rayo got a consolation in the 57th through Manucho's header.

Barca were helped by the fact that Rayo lost defender Diego Llorente to a red card three minutes before half-time for a foul on Rakitic.

Then, Manuel Iturra was also sent off in the 67th for bringing down Sergio Busquets in the area.

But Suarez failed to score from the spot.

"It's a strange situation (the pattern of missing penalties)," Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta told the As website.

"We mustn't let it bother us while everything is working as well as it is. There are many reasons why we continue to be winning but the league isn't over, there are lots of points still to take."

Victory saw Barcelona break Real Madrid's 1988-89 undefeated run of 34 games.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'ENRIQUE'S JOY AT RAMPANT BARCA'. Print Edition | Subscribe