Luis Enrique defends Barca values after bottle incident

Luis Suarez and Neymar JR of FC Barcelona impacts a bottle during the La Liga match between Valencia CF vs FC Barcelona at Mestalla Stadium, Valencia, on october 22, 2016. (Photo by Maria Jose Segovia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

BARCELONA: Barcelona coach Luis Enrique defended his team’s integrity on Friday after a week in which his players were criticised by the highest powers in Spanish soccer following last week’s dramatic 3-2 win at Valencia.

La Liga chief Javier Tebas said he would be “ashamed to pretend” the way some players went down “like a game of skittles” when a bottle was thrown in from the stands, while the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) criticised Barca for goading Valencia fans after Lionel Messi’s injury time winner.

Barcelona escalated their row with the league by calling for disciplinary proceedings against Tebas on Thursday.

Luis Enrique stopped short of hitting back at Tebas, but launched a staunch defence of his team, who he pointed out have won the league’s fair play award for the last six seasons.

“Pouring more fuel on the fire doesn’t interest anyone but the facts speak for themselves. We have won the fair play award for many years and that speaks of our sportsmanship,” Luis Enrique told a news conference on Friday.

“We don’t kick others, we don’t injure opponents. Those are the values we try to transmit. We are the team that makes the least anti-sporting gestures and gets the least cards. The evidence is clear.”

Champions Barca climbed up to third in the standings thanks to the thrilling victory over Valencia and face bottom side Granada at home on Saturday.

Lucas Alcaraz’s side are the only team in the league yet to win a game and Luis Enrique expects the visitors to opt for an extra defensive set up at the Nou Camp.

“They can play with a 4-4-2 or with five defenders but if there’s a team that is prepared to combat that defensive strategy then it’s us,” he said.

Barca could be without a total of seven players for the game through injury, including captain Andres Iniesta and influential defender Gerard Pique.

Luis Enrique also gave his firm backing to his old team mate and friend Pep Guardiola, who is being questioned after a run of six games without a win in charge of Manchester City in England.

“Critics will always appear because people don’t like it when the same people win all the time, but I’m sure Pep is going to win and he’s going to win while playing the same spectacular football we saw at the start of the season,” he said.