Barcelona start their assault on a fifth trophy of the year in the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Bilbao on Friday, with midfielder Sergio Busquets insisting that fatigue will not be a factor.
Just four days after defeating Sevilla 5-4 after extra time in the European Super Cup in Tbilisi, Barcelona make the shorter trip to Bilbao’s home ground, San Mames.
Despite the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup coming quickly on Monday, Busquets believes that the European champions can shrug off their exhausting travel schedule.
“We are playing at a tough ground, San Mames, and we have to give our all without excuses,” Busquets said Thursday.
“Tactically we know each other well, because we have played a lot matches and finals in recent years and this is no different.
“They will be intense, hard working tactically and physically, and they have quality young players.”
Want-away winger Pedro scored the winner for FC Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup
On Monday, it was Pedro Rodriguez who proved to be the unlikely hero for Barcelona as the wantaway winger came off the bench to smash home the winner with five minutes left in extra time after Barca had conspired to throw away a 4-1 second-half lead.
“When you know that you could leave, it is a complicated situation. I was very angry to have not played (from the start) because I have always tried to be professional and go out to help the team,” said Pedro, who has been linked with Manchester United and Manchester City.
“It is a complicated situation for many reasons. Not for money as has been said, which is another lack of respect. It is a question of continuity, of minutes on the pitch and I am an ambitious player.”
And he also hit back at Barca technical secretary Robert Fernandez for claiming that he asked to leave the club, citing that statement as “unfortunate”.
Pedro’s opportunities have been limited since the arrival of Luis Suarez last season to join Lionel Messi and Neymar in attack.
However, even without Neymar due to a bout of the mumps, coach Luis Enrique opted for Rafinha ahead of Pedro and was rewarded as he scored after Messi had fired in two brilliant free-kicks to cancel out Ever Banega’s opener for Sevilla.
Suarez then made it 4-1 early in the second half, but remarkably Sevilla produced a stunning fightback as goals from Jose Antonio Reyes, Kevin Gameiro and Yevhen Konoplyanka took the game into extra time.
We committed a lot of errors that made life difficult for us – Javier Mascherano
And Javier Mascherano admitted the European champions have plenty to work on ahead of the upcoming two legs against Athletic if they are to add the Spanish Super Cup to their trophy haul.
“For the fans it was the kind of spectacle you rarely see. We are happy to have won, but we have a lot to improve,” said the Argentine.
“We committed a lot of errors that made life difficult for us. We allowed Sevilla to get back in the game, when you’re 4-1 up and all of a sudden the result is in danger.”
Barca travel to the San Mames on Friday before hosting the Basques at the Camp Nou next Monday.
Neymar misses out once more but Athletic are even more affected by injuries with four first-team regulars almost certain to miss out.
Inaki Williams, who scored Athletic’s goal in a 3-1 defeat when the two sides met in the Copa del Rey final in May, Ander Iturraspe, Mikel Rico and Iker Muniain are all sidelined and striker Aritz Aduriz believes that is more of a blow to his side than Barcelona missing Neymar.
“Their absences are very important for them, but so are ours very important for us,” he said.
“It is crucial that we have our best team available. At the moment we don’t and that damages us.”