Luis Enrique focused on Barca – not his former club

Published 12/09/2015, 4:22 AM EST
Football Soccer – FC Barcelona press conference – BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany – 08/12/15 FC Barcelona’s coach Luis Enrique attends a press conference before UEFA Champions League soccer match against Bayer Leverkusen REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (Reuters) – Barcelona will go all out for victory in their final Champions League game in Group E – but not because it might help coach Luis Enrique’s former club, he said on Tuesday.

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The holders play at Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday, with the Germans needing to beat Barca and hope second-placed AS Roma fail to win at home to BATE Borisov if they are to reach the knockout stages for a third successive season.

Victory or a draw for Barca would help the Italian club’s cause.

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Luis Enrique had a disappointing stint in charge at Roma in 2011-12 before returning to Spain to take charge of Celta Vigo but has often spoken fondly of his time in the Italian capital.

However, he told a news conference previewing Wednesday’s clash at the BayArena that Barca — who are already through to the last 16 as group winners — would remain true to their attacking style and would be targeting a fifth win in six outings this term in Europe’s elite club competition.

“My motivation is to put on a good performance and get the three points,” he told reporters.

“Beyond that, whoever gets through to the next round, it should be due to their own merits and be deserved.”

The former Barca and Spain midfielder added: “Obviously the result is much more significant for them than it is for us, and that could be very good or very bad.

“Anything could happen, but we will try to be as faithful as possible to our way of playing and go for the three points with the calm that comes from knowing that it won’t matter, as far as qualification goes.”

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Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt told an earlier news conference that thwarting Barca forward Lionel Messi would be a near-impossible task, even though the Argentina captain has only recently returned from a knee injury.

Messi, who hit five goals against Leverkusen at the Nou Camp in 2011-12, looks to be getting back to his best following his return in last month’s La Liga ‘Clasico’ against Real Madrid.

“We are looking forward to the game and want to compete with them in our own stadium,” Schmidt said.

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“We have already shown that we are capable of putting in special performances in Europe.”

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Neville Dalton)

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Dhruv George

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Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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