As long as the players of FC Barcelona take the Champions League game this evening seriously and play somewhere close to their usual quality then Luis Enrique should be heading back to Spain with all three points in the bag. We need to do that as well or Barca could find themselves in the odd position of being runners up in the UCL group and facing a tougher task in the knockout stage.
Barcelona fans are still reeling from the shock La Liga defeat dished out by newly promoted Alaves at the weekend, so Luis Enrique is looking for an instant and emphatic return to form tonight against the Scottish champions Celtic in the first of the Champions League group games.
The main reason for that defeat in post people’s eyes was the manager’s decision to make seven changes and leave key players like Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez and of course Lionel Messi on the bench and one of the reasons he would have done it was to keep them fresh for tonight.
Of course it will be a concern to Luis Enrique, his players and everyone concerned with FC Barcelona that the team suffered their first defeat of the season last night. And the French champions PSG will be hard to dislodge from the top of the Champions League group after their 3-2 win at the Parc des Princes, but it is by no means a disaster.
With their two main La Liga rivals having a slow start, Barcelona were able to open up an early gap at the top of the Spanish league table. But it is very early days and nobody was getting too excited, because the performances were still a bit patchy and it was clear that the new manager Luis Enrique had plenty of work to do.
That was highlighted by the midweek game at Malaga. The Andalucians deserve a lot of credit for their draw, as they were very organised and worked tirelessly to close the Barca players down. And they forged the better chances, but the old Barcelona would have dominated the game more and created much more.
Everybody concerned with FC Barcelona has been shaken by the news that Tito Vilanova is having to retire as the club’s manager as the throat cancer that he has already fought off twice has returned. Tito will have an operation next week, and everyone will be hoping for another successful procedure, but the clock is ticking and Barcelona need to appoint a new manager as quickly as possible.
There have been a number of names doing the rounds, including Michael Laudrup after his success with Swansea in the Premier League, but two clear favourites have emerged from the pack, and they are the former Barca player Luis Enrique, and the Argentinean manager of Newell’s Old Boys, Gerard `Tata` Martino.