Monday 19 February 2018

Enrique focused on Barca task

Head coach Luis Enrique of FC Barcelona. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Head coach Luis Enrique of FC Barcelona. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Pete Jenson

Barcelona will cross La Liga's finish line first today if they beat Granada away, but any slip-up from Luis Suarez and company will mean - providing Real Madrid beat Deportivo de la Coruña - it will be Gareth Bale celebrating on the pitch at the final whistle.

"If we don't win our match then we will have to look at what has happened in other games but if we win, we win the league" said Luis Enrique, looking for his second straight La Liga crown.

He also said he is not interested in the debate about how Barça will celebrate if they win the title. There had been plans for a short bus ride late tonight but a Bruce Springsteen concert and the Spanish Grand Prix have put paid to that by stretching security sources to the point where the club have been advised against a double deck bus crawling slowly to the stadium past thousands of celebrating fans.

"I'm only interested in winning the league, the rest is secondary," the Barça coach said. "Winning the league will be enough in itself".

Barça's 24th title would be all the more sweet for the way they have had to fight to win it.

When they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, doom and gloom set in, with some suggesting the domestic title would feel like a hollow success. But such was the end of season dip in form that saw Real close the gap on the leaders from 12 to just one point, it will now feel like one of their greater titles.

The fact that after 37 games - scoring 217 goals between them - Real Madrid and Barcelona are still separated by a solitary point is testament to Madrid's capacity to hang on. Under Zinedine Zidane they have won their last 11 in the league.

Zidane was asked if he thought Granada would be up to the challenge of lending Madrid a helping hand by taking something from Barcelona.

"I am not going to get involved in what other teams might or might not do," he said. "We have a final left to play and we need the three points. Nothing else is in our minds but to win the game."

Talk all week in Spain has been of the possibility that Granada would receive some sort of cash incentive to topple the league leaders. Spanish football has a shadowy history of financial incentives paid to sides to encourage them to win their games on the final day.

According to Spanish website El Confidencial Digital the taxman has 22 inspectors on the look out for irregular payments to players from clubs implicated not just in the title race but also in the relegation battle.

Granada's Ivan Kevala was quoted this week as admitting there was a possibility of Madrid giving Granada a bonus if they beat Barça although he later denied having said it.

There will be plenty of players out to give their best for other reasons. Granada keeper Jesus Fernandez used to play for Real Madrid so he'll be able to help his old club.

And the players of the two title contending sides will have the most at stake.

Such an epic season perhaps deserved to be settled by the main protagonists as opposed to the bit-part actors making their entrance for the final scene. Barça striker Suarez is on 37 goals in the league and has Cristiano Ronaldo just four goals behind him - only one can finish up as a champion.

With 90 minutes left, there is still all to play for.

Granada v Barcelona, Sky Sports 3,

Deportivo v Real Madrid, Sky Sports 4, both live, today, 4.00pm

Irish Independent

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