Barcelona manager Luis Enrique insists he does not regret his decision to start with forward star Lionel Messi on the bench is Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad in Matchday 17 of the Spanish La Liga.
Both Messi and Brazilian star Neymar were left out for the game in San Sebastian, with Luis Suarez, Munir El Haddadi and Pedro selecteed upfront.
After a blunt first-half display after defender Jordi Alba scored an own goal which put the hosts in the lead, Messi was introduced at the interval, while Neymar entered the fray just before the half-hour mark.
Even with their superstar duo playing in the second period, the Catalans were unable to turn the game around, thus bringing an end to their 11-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Barca also squandered the chance to take advantage of title-challenging rivals Real Madrid’s shock defeat to Valencia earlier during the day and go two points clear at the top of the Spanish top flight, but Enrique was adamant that he had done the right thing by leaving Messi and Neymar on the bench, given the pair had only returned to training on December 31 after being granted time off for Christmas.
“This isn’t the time to regret those decisions,” the Blaugrana boss told reporters post-match.
“I look at the season as a whole and I do what’s best for the team. I thought that it was best not to risk [them].”
“[The own goal was] Real Sociedad’s only dangerous chance. We controlled the match, especially in the second half when we got closer to their net.”
“We deserved more than that. We were a bit unlucky not to have scored an equaliser. Real Sociedad played a complete match.”
Barcelona will look to hit the ground running again in Thursday’s Spanish Copa del Rey last-16 clash with Elche in the first-leg at Camp Nou.