BARCELONA

Sevilla are La Liga title contenders, says Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique believes Barcelona's opponents on Sunday are "without doubt" in with a chance of challenging for the La Liga trophy "from what they have shown so far".

Sevilla are La Liga title contenders, says Luis Enrique
FERNANDO ZUERAS DIARIO AS

Sevilla - Barcelona live

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique believes Sevilla will pose a serious threat to Spain's established top three for the La Liga title this season ahead of his side's trip to the Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday.

Sevilla "without any doubt" contenders

Sevilla lie fourth after 10 games, but just three points behind leaders Real Madrid, two adrift of Barca and level with Atletico Madrid.

"Without any doubt for what they have shown until now," said Enrique on Saturday when quizzed on Sevilla's ability to launch a title challenge.

Sevilla have already beaten Atletico in winning all seven home games since Barca last visited in the Spanish Super Cup in August.

However, Enrique's men have looked increasingly brittle in recent weeks without the injured Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta and were beaten 3-1 by Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Luis Enrique

Yet, the Barca boss rounded on his critics and called for patience in judging his side until the end of the season.

First half v City was Barça's best under me - Enrique 

"If I look at our first 40 minutes in Manchester, I think they are the best minutes of our era since I have been coach," he added.

"There is desperation to praise or criticise very quickly, but there has to be more rationality when analysing teams. At the end of the season is when I think it is just.

"You have a very recent example in our first year (2014/15). You (the media) vilified the coaching team and in the end we were the coaching staff that won most titles in the world that year."

Defeat against former Barca boss Pep Guardiola in midweek was Barca's third in their last 12 games.

And with Real Madrid facing the easier challenge of Leganes at home and an two-week international break to come, Enrique is determined not to lose more ground in the title race.

La Liga "like Tour de France"

"This is like the Tour of Spain or Tour de France (in cycling). You have to try not to lose it in the early stages to get to the key stages with a chance of winning.

"That means getting to February or March with a real and clear chance to win all of the titles. That is our objective."

Pique, Iniesta and Jordi Alba are all missing once more for the trip to Sevilla.

Enrique is expected to make just change from the side that started against City with Rafinha or Arda Turan replacing Andre Gomes.