Football: Neymar to be enjoyed, not criticised, says Luis Enrique

Barcelona's Neymar (right) scores past Atletico Madrid's goalkeeper Jan Oblak during their Spanish King's Cup quarterfinal second leg soccer match at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on Jan 28, 2015. Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has leapt to th
Barcelona's Neymar (right) scores past Atletico Madrid's goalkeeper Jan Oblak during their Spanish King's Cup quarterfinal second leg soccer match at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on Jan 28, 2015. Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has leapt to the defence of Brazilian star Neymar after claims from Atletico Madrid players he was showboating as the Catalans knocked the Spanish champions out of the Copa del Rey in midweek. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (AFP) - Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has leapt to the defence of Brazilian star Neymar after claims from Atletico Madrid players he was showboating as the Catalans knocked the Spanish champions out of the Copa del Rey in midweek.

Neymar scored twice as Barca won 3-2 on the night at the Vicente Calderon to progress into the semi-finals 4-2 on aggregate.

However, Neymar was targeted by Atletico players in an ill-tempered affair as the hosts finished the game with just nine men.

Enrique admitted after the match that he had substituted Neymar in the second-half to protect him from further rough treatment.

And he believes players of Neymar's ability should be afforded more protection rather than being questioned for showing their full repertoire of skills.

"Brazilians see football as a way of enjoying themselves whilst competing," Enrique said on Saturday.

"Spain is a strange country where people are more offended by a nutmeg than destroying someone with five fouls.

"If you take football, samba or other things away then he is no longer Brazilian. They have another way of understanding the game. He should continue to enjoy it and so should we."

Neymar's run of seven goals in his last six games has played a major role in Barca's upturn in form since losing their opening game of 2015 away at Real Sociedad.

However, they face another of the form teams on Sunday night when Villarreal hope to extend their 18-game unbeaten league run at the Camp Nou.

The sides will meet three times in just over a month as they also clash in the Copa del Rey semi-finals, and Enrique insisted his side have to disrupt Villarreal's passing game.

"Both of us are in good form. At home we are very strong and the support of the fans is important, but I have no doubt they will present difficulties.

"We need to press well. In the first game there we struggled and won late on. We need to be very effective in our pressing."