Whew. It was not easy, but Barcelona got the job done against a very tough and skilled Valencia side, winning 2-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday, and getting closer and closer to finishing the April Marathon without a loss, which would be an amazing feat in light of such a tough schedule.
Perhaps the most encouraging factor of this streak of games this month is that, even though the team hasn't played at the highest level on every match, their level effort is always there. They weren't creative enough against The Bats, sure, but they never stopped running, defending and going after every ball. This attitude of not getting complacent when things aren't going right is something that clearly lacked last season, especially late in the campaign when the team just fell apart.
You can absolutely credit coach Luis Enrique for that attitude change. Sure, he has a difficult personality and it's a very in-your-face kind of manager, but he's earned the respect from his players, and that shows on the field. No matter which eleven guys are out there, they buy into Lucho's "don't give up, keep trying" mantra, and that will is translating into victories against the toughest opponents.
Enrique is conscious of that effort, and he pointed it out in his post-match press conference following the win against Valencia. He knows that the performance wasn't the best, but he gets how tired his players were, and he congratulated their effort. Here's what he said:
"We had a wonderful start, but we made mistakes when they brought the pressure. In the second half we had more control over the game. The win puts us where we want. For us it's a great result. It's a day to congratulate all the players who gave it their all, despite playing with little gas in the tank.
"The victory is well-deserved because effectiveness is the key to football.
"I am pleased with the attitudes of my players every game. The attitude is superb. And this is a key requirement for us.
"These players are winners. From the first day I saw that they want to win titles and work hard to do it.
"Some players didn't play today due to a high risk of getting injured. Now we have a few days to rest until Tuesday.
"Today we were, once again, very supportive of each other. The attackers gave us what we always ask them for. They need help in attack and the defence needs help to defend. The key is to be supportive."
I don't know about you guys, but I'm starting to like this Lucho fellow a lot.