- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SANT JOAN DESPI, Spain (AP) - Luis Enrique followed in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola, and now he can match his predecessor’s place in Barcelona club history by winning the Champions League title to complete a treble.

Luis Enrique has already surpassed expectations in his first season as the Catalan club’s coach by winning the Spanish league and Copa del Rey following a 2013-14 without silverware under Gerardo Martino.

Now, one more win over Juventus in Berlin on Saturday will match Guardiola’s first season in 2009, when Barcelona became the first Spanish team to ever sweep the three most important titles.

“Beyond the Champions League, there is the treble,” Luis Enrique said on Thursday at Barcelona’s training ground. “We are all very excited for the opportunity to win the treble for a second time, and that speaks of the magnitude of the challenge.”

Barcelona is vying for its fifth European Cup and fourth in 10 seasons with this talented squad built around star forward Lionel Messi.

“The goal is more than alluring,” Luis Enrique said. “And that’s what it means for me. I am thrilled to have the chance to win it.”

Few would have imagined Luis Enrique would get such a chance just six months ago.

After a good start to the season, Luis Enrique weathered an up-and-down stretch for Barcelona that culminated in speculation that an argument with Messi during training could have led to the manager’s downfall following a loss in January.

But since that 1-0 slip at Real Sociedad, Luis Enrique guided the team to an outstanding record of 31 wins to go with one defeat and two draws as the team overtook Real Madrid to win the Spanish league before adding the Copa del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

In the Champions League, Barcelona eliminated Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich- the then defending English, French and German champions.

Still, Luis Enrique denied that he had changed his style or tactics over the course of the season.

“To be honest, I don’t live the world of extremes. I am the same since the start of the season,” he said. “The rest doesn’t matter to me. I am only interested in doing and enjoying my job.

“Is this the most important match of my career? I don’t know. I haven’t stopped to ponder it. I follow the same routine. We have had a very good Champions League. This is a final with that added psychological charge, but I’m sure we will play a great game and cause them problems.”

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who will be leaving the club after 17 seasons following the final, praised Luis Enrique.

“He has demonstrated what he can do and we have won titles and trained well with him,” Xavi said. “He has been a very good leader and that is not easy, especially in the first season. He has gotten through it successfully. I hope (it) continues.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide