Alba: Barca back in the groove

Defeat to Real Sociedad in their first match back after the winter break was followed by rumours of Lionel Messi’s unhappiness and coach Luis Enrique’s inability to get to grips with his side.

However, since then Barca have won eight matches in succession in league and cup.

“After that defeat the team found the game we wanted,” the left-back told a press conference.

“Luis Enrique requires you to be on top of your game all the time and you learn a lot from him about the game.”

Barcelona head to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday looking to capitalise from their two Primera Division rivals Real and Atletico facing each other in the Madrid derby 24 hours earlier.

However, Alba said they could not allow their focus to be distracted from a trip to the Basque region, themselves unbeaten in four matches in all competitions, after losing there late last season which contributed to them losing the title to Atletico.

“In Bilbao we always go with the same idea: keep the ball, deploy our game,” he added.

“They are a young team that likes to play football and are very dangerous in the air, which is something which must be taken into account.

“They are a dangerous rival.”

Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde admits he knows what his side have to do to repeat last season’s victory, although transferring that onto the pitch will be more difficult.

“The theory is easy; the problem is the practice,” said the coach, whose side booked a place in the last four of the cup last week.

“We are in a more or less on a streak and the real test will come on Sunday against Barca.”