No cracks, Enrique insists, but he must fix it by Celtic tie

Aleix Vidal showing the strain with Barcelona heading for a 2-1 reverse against Alaves in La Liga. Manager Luis Enrique dismissed rumours of a split in his squad over his move to make eight changes to the team ahead of tonight's European game against
Aleix Vidal showing the strain with Barcelona heading for a 2-1 reverse against Alaves in La Liga. Manager Luis Enrique dismissed rumours of a split in his squad over his move to make eight changes to the team ahead of tonight's European game against Celtic.PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has played down talk of a rift with his squad after their surprise 2-1 home defeat by La Liga newcomers Alaves on Saturday and is hoping to put things right in their Champions League opener against Celtic today.

Spanish sports website Diario Gol reported yesterday that some players responded to a telling-off following the reverse by questioning Enrique's decision to make eight changes to the team.

"We talk after every game to correct things and to reinforce other aspects but what happens in those meetings is only important for the players and staff," he told a news conference yesterday.

"We always talk with the players to try and put them on the right track to win the game but it is not an exact science."

Barca's defeat was their first in 12 competitive matches.

Enrique is expected to field his first-choice 11 against Celtic, so Suarez will meet his former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman presided over the Uruguayan's best two seasons in England, compelling Barcelona to pay Liverpool €81 million (S$126.8 million) for him in 2014.

Goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is Barca's only doubt after he missed the Alaves game with a muscle strain.

Celtic head to Spain on a high after thrashing Glasgow rivals Rangers 5-1 on Saturday .

Rodgers is still without lead striker Leigh Griffiths through a torn hamstring but new signing Moussa Dembele proved more than an able replacement against newly promoted Rangers, scoring his first professional hat-trick.

Celtic were beaten 6-1 on their last visit to the Nou Camp in December 2013, but Dembele believes they can get something this time.

"We are going there to give everything and try to get a result," the Frenchman said. "When you start a game of football, even if it's against the best team in the world, you have to go there and show what you can do."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'No cracks, Enrique insists, but he must fix it by Celtic tie'. Print Edition | Subscribe