Luis Enrique has admitted that Barcelona “are much stronger” with Lionel Messi but praised his side for successfully adapting to life without him.
The Catalans have won five of their seven matches since the No 10 was stretchered off with a knee ligament tear against Las Palmas, and the Coach acknowledged his team’s form ahead of Sunday's match against Villarreal in La Liga.
“[Villarreal] are difficult opponents and proved it in La Liga and the Copa del Rey last season,” he said at a Press conference.
“Consequently, we have to be efficient and take our chances. It'll be a complicated game but also an attractive one.
“[On Sergi Roberto], we have several players who can play in different positions, but it goes beyond having a good physical and technical qualities.
“[Sergi] is very smart and gifted in this respect. For a Coach, it's always beneficial to have players who always want take to the pitch for all the opportunities it offers.
“[On Denis Suarez], his performances will determine whether he returns to Barca [referring to his buyback clause], but he must be a starter for his team, and Denis is one of those.
“It's never easy because we have the best players in the world.
“We always analyse defensive errors, regardless of whether we concede or don't concede.
“We've polished things and are doing better now, but that doesn't mean we've solved everything. All defensive situations can be improved.
“[Messi's] recovery from injury is going well. Is that good enough for you? You should ask him how he's doing. I'm no-one's spokesman.
“There are many aspects that influence the players' injuries, the burden of minutes for example.
“Luck is also an important factor. We must take more care of how many minutes they play and their what affects them. Football is difficult for the number of injuries.
“I'd rather have everyone available, but whenever [there are injuries], we put the player's interests first because there's nothing worse than a relapse. I'd have liked to give more rest to some players.
“[On the international break], the players want to go with their national teams because [international football] is beautiful and it makes sense for them to go.
“We're much stronger with Messi, but we have a great team, which have taken a step forward and possess many qualities.
“The work of Neymar and [Luis] Suarez in attack is an example, but we've also worked hard defensively.”