Aug 30, 2016

    Barca not hurt by absences of Neymar, Iniesta


    BARCELONA coach Luis Enrique highlighted the hunger of his squad not to be ousted by Real Madrid as Spanish champions after a hard-fought 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao maintained their perfect start to the season.

    The Catalans had to win their final five league games of last season to stave off Real's late charge and claim a fifth title in seven seasons.

    "It is a start to the season very like how we ended last season. All the players are involved, all the players have the desire and hunger to be first," said the Barca coach.

    Four wins to start the new campaign, including two in the Spanish Super Cup over Sevilla, have come about despite the absence of Neymar, due to his participation in the Olympics, and injured captain Andres Iniesta.

    "We still have players to come back, players that have suffered injuries in pre-season, but we have a great squad and everyone is desperate to compete," added Enrique.

    One area of competition within the squad was eased as Claudio Bravo signed for Manchester City, clearing the way for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to become Barca's undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper.

    Bravo and ter Stegen have shared duties over the past two seasons with the former playing in La Liga, while the German featured in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

    Ter Stegen's passing style from the back was in full evidence as he completed a La Liga record 51 passes for a goalkeeper, but also nearly cost Barca the opening goal with a poor clearance.