Luis Enrique expects stiff test at San Mames
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique anticipates a difficult test when his side face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday seeking to end a poor run of recent Liga results at San Mames.
Barca have dropped points on their last three visits to Bilbao in La Liga, losing 1-0 last season courtesy of Iker Muniain's 70th-minute strike.
And although Athletic - who sit 12th - have found wins harder to come by this season after finishing fourth last term, Luis Enrique feels the Basque club have turned a corner in recent weeks.
"Valverde and Athletic, we know them very well. They can make things difficult for us in different facets of the game," said Luis Enrique at a press conference on Saturday.
"They are a difficult team, they create a lot of pressure. They're not going to give us two seconds on the ball to relax.
"They got off to a bit of a bad start. There's also the fact they were playing in the Champions League, which puts a lot of demands on the squad. I think that possibly had an effect on them.
"But I've always been a big fan of Athletic Bilbao's football and their philosophy and I think their performances have improved.
"It's always difficult to play at Bilbao so we're going to have to play very well to get through this game."
Barca trail Liga leaders Real Madrid by four points, but Luis Enrique believes there will be many twists and turns in the title race with 17 rounds of matches remaining.
He added: "There is still a long way to play and there are always going to be surprises, with the big teams dropping points against smaller teams that simply weren't expected.
"You can say that we're four points behind Madrid and yes that's difficult, but it's certainly not insurmountable. It's up to us to get better results than Real Madrid."