FC Barcelona started their Champions League game against APOEL with new looking midfield and coach Luis Enrique has defended his rotation policy by claiming that his players are not machines.
Gerard Pique scored the only goal of the match in the 28th minute through the header but fans were left unconvinced with the display of FC Barcelona as many had expected Messi and co. to run a riot against the Cypriots.
FC Barcelona has made excellent start to the season by winning all their competitive game till date by playing with Guardiola-style fluency but they struggled to maintain the tempo of the game in their Champions League opener. Luis Enrique made nine changes to the starting line-up which beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 on Saturday, but he said after the game that rotation is necessary to keep his squad in peak physical condition.
“I am sure that we will succeed with the help of all players,” Enrique said in a press conference. “We have to analyse why the match was so difficult for us today.
“The players are not machines – players need to be fit – but we have to improve.”
Claudio Bravo has been the keeper of first choice for Barcelona boss Luis Enrique so far but he opted to start yesterday’s Champions League game with youngster Marc Andre Ter-Stegen and he defended his decision.
“I don’t have one goalkeeper for each competition, I have three great goalkeepers”.
FC Barcelona started the game with experienced midfielder Xavi Hernandez and he also accepted that his side did not perform according to the expectations.
“We struggled. We tried to move the ball quickly and we didn’t manage that. We dominated, yes. We tried inside and outside but they closed down well”, said FC Barcelona captain Xavi Hernández.
“We were a bit sluggish but we won and that’s the main thing. To start well in the group phase, with three points is always good.”
Meanwhile, Barcelona captain Xavi himself have become a part player under Luis Enrique but he said that he has no qualms about his new role. “I’m happy. When it’s my turn to play I’ll do what I can to be useful, when the coach needs me. I started the season with some niggles but I’m good now.”
The Barcelona coach has adopted the policy of giving opportunities to La Masia youngsters and Xavi is very happy with this policy of Luis Enrique. “The footballers who are coming in have a lot of talent and we have a coach who puts his faith in youth. Luis Enrique is honest and brave and he doesn’t look at your identity card when he picks the team.”