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Luis Enrique ignores Madrid struggles to focus on Barcelona

Luis Enrique is ignoring Real Madrid's struggles and focusing on maintaining Barcelona's improved run of form.

Madrid have won just one of their last five games in all competitions, a spell that has seen them exit the Copa del Rey but not significantly damage their LaLiga aspirations.

Third-placed Barca - who have won five successive matches, and four of five in the league - have managed to close the gap to two points but Madrid have a game in hand over both the Catalans and Sevilla, who are second.

Nevertheless, Luis Enrique is encouraged by his side's recent improvement.

He told a news conference ahead of Sunday's trip to Real Betis: "It's amazing how you guys [in the press] change your opinions. A few weeks ago it was as if it was a disaster.

"We try to keep a level head. There is a long time to go this season. Of course all managers like winning runs, especially for big teams; we need to get runs together. We are having one and hopefully it will continue. But there are teams ahead of us so we need to keep winning.

"Obviously for Barcelona or Madrid to triumph [in the league] then you need the other team to struggle, that’s what happens when things are tight between you.

"But we can only control our game. I go back to what I said earlier, there's a long time to go and let's not overdramatise things. At the end of the season we see how each team has done, who has the most points."

Barca's resurgence will be given a stern test at Betis, according to former Spain midfielder Luis Enrique.

"It is a different team to the one we played earlier in the season," he added. "They've had a change of manager - [Gus] Poyet played here with five defenders and that's not normal for them.

"They're adapting to Victor's new system, they don't play the same system as before. The fans are behind them and they are a team on the rise at the moment. They will cause us plenty of problems.

"Our idea is to go to win three points – that's all we can do. It really doesn’t make sense to focus on other teams if you don’t win your own games."

Luis Enrique also reiterated his defence of referees and admitted he was trying to reduce the number of protests from his players towards officials.

He said: "It's hard to change, but I have been trying for quite some time.

"Players need to contain their emotions. I think Barca players may get picked on because of their skill, but it's not easy.

"Perhaps I'm not the best example as I was like that as a player, but I want my players to help the officials as much as possible and control things and not let their emotions get out of control because those aspects start influencing your play poorly."

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