19 September 2014 16:51
Early La Liga leaders Barcelona take their 100 per cent record to Levante on Sunday with Luis Enrique’s men prepared for further rotation.
Barca have made a fine start to the 2014-15 campaign, winning all three of their league outings so far without conceding a goal.
Their good run continued in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, as the four-time winners began their quest for a fifth crown with a 1-0 win over APOEL at Camp Nou.
With Luis Enrique making nine changes from the victory over Athletic Bilbao last weekend, the new head coach’s decision to shuffle his pack was met with criticism in some quarters following a laboured display against their Cypriot opponents.
The Spaniard defended his policy in the aftermath of the APOEL game, though, and vowed to continue rotating his squad as Barca look to challenge on three fronts after a disappointing 2013-14 under Gerardo Martino.
And the former Celta Vigo boss has received the support of his players, with the likes of Dani Alves and Adriano all lending their backing to his stance.
“Luis Enrique has really got us on track, back towards the top,” said Alves. “He has everybody giving 100 per cent.
“I think it is really nice to get playing time for everybody, which will end up being really important.”
“Everybody knows what the coach is like and how he likes to work”, added Adriano. “He has a lot of confidence in everybody, which I think is really good for the team. And because of that everyone is ready to play.”
Sunday’s visit to Levante will evoke fond memories for Barca fans, after they clinched the league title there in both the 2004-05 and 2010-11 campaigns.
The Catalan giants have not lost at Levante since the 1964-65 season, and Sunday sees them come up against a side sitting rock bottom of the table.
But despite taking just one point from their opening three fixtures, Levante head coach Jose Luis Mendilibar is confident of causing an upset.
“I’m convinced we’re going to make it difficult,” he said. “We want to win. I want to win and the players feel comfortable. It may be time to look at things more optimistically.”
Barca still have doubts surrounding Thomas Vermaelen – who is yet to feature for his new club since joining from Arsenal – but, with the exception of the suspended Luis Suarez, Luis Enrique otherwise has a full squad to pick from.