BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona have rediscovered their appetite and are dazzling in attack again as coach Luis Enrique’s tactics are starting to pay off.
A month ago Luis Enrique was in the eye of a hurricane over an alleged bust up with star player Lionel Messi and his days at the helm of the team appeared to be numbered.
The former Barca player had been brought in after a season where they had failed to win a major trophy and put in charge of a new project that saw money ploughed into new signings, including Luis Suarez.
However, the team had failed to unite under Luis Enrique who continually chopped and changed his team as well as his tactics.
They looked uncertain especially defensively and needed their star players to get them out of trouble with their individual skills.
Many fans questioned whether the confrontational coach, who also had a difficult relationship with the media, was the right man for the job.
Since the defeat, though, against Real Sociedad in the first game back after Christmas, Barca have had a remarkable turnaround and they have been winning games with panache.
They have restored the desire and hunger reminiscent of Barca’s golden spell under Pep Guardiola with 29 goals in eight league and cup games.
Barca followed up their elimination of Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup last week with a 3-2 defeat on Sunday of an in-form Villarreal, who came to the Camp Nou on the back of an 18-match unbeaten run.
The coach again tinkered with his side by leaving out Xavi and Ivan Rakitic, and giving a rare chance to Rafinha, but the tactic worked and the win saw them continue their pursuit of Real Madrid, who are a point ahead at the top of La Liga.
“The team is ready to overcome whatever is put against them in a game. In the Calderon we came back from a goal down and we did it twice against a strong Villarreal side,” Luis Enrique told a news conference.
“The game demonstrated the importance of being balanced and if not you pay for it.”
The Catalan side responded well both times they went behind with a ruthless attack led by Neymar and Lionel Messi.
Neymar is flourishing in his second season at the club while Messi appears to have rediscovered his motivation and is playing once again with a smile on his face.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly