Luis Enrique singled out Javier Mascherano for praise after Barcelona’s 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid, claiming the midfielder was vital in defence and attack.
Mascherano was deployed as Barca’s midfield pivot on Wednesday in the absence of Sergio Busquets and set up the Catalans’ first goal in a tireless display that ensured the side drew first blood against Atleti in the Copa del Rey semi-finals.
“We started the tie well, knowing the difficulty that they were going to have in the first few minutes at the Calderon,” the Coach said after the game.
“We created chances and were effective. The pattern of the second half was clearly the same, but it was Atleti that attacked more and we had difficulty getting out of the traps.
“They had to take risks due to their adverse scoreline, and with their goal they got into the tie. We could’ve killed it off, but they could’ve also drawn with us. It could’ve been better and worse.
“It’d be naive to come to the Calderon and think you won’t suffer. There, you have to know what to do when you don’t have the ball and you must try to make the game go as quickly as possible.
“After that, you must try to keep the ball in the opposite half. But carrying that out isn’t always easy.
“A bad aftertaste? I won’t say anything negative [about the team’s performance]. We could’ve solved it better but that’s the theory.
“Taking advantage of our mistakes, they created chances. There are things to put right, but this [win] strengthens the team.
“Messi? In the big and special matches, [the right] is where Messi plays best and gives a repertoire of what the team need. There are few adjectives worthy of praising Leo Messi.
“The beauty of the Copa ties is that it’s already known which team will take more risks. Atleti will repeat their performances at Camp Nou, and for us the approach is to have the ball and try to win the match.
“Mascherano as the pivot? He was on the same line as the rest of the team. The first goal came from a recovery of his. He played well, we created openings in attack [thanks to him].
“Impact of Neymar’s absence? If there’s a team in the world that shouldn’t have any regrets, it’s Barcelona.”