Luis Enrique: I won't justify myself to Rakitic

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Luis Enrique says he will not justify himself to Ivan Rakitic over the midfielder's recent absence from the Barcelona team.

Rakitic has not played a minute of Barca's last three games in all competitions, since being substituted an hour into the Clasico 1-1 draw against Real Madrid on December 3.

Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes have gotten the nod over the Croatia international for those games, wins against Borussia Monchengladbach, Osasuna and Espanyol.

Luis Enrique gave no reason for Rakitic's benching, but praised the former Sevilla playmaker's response to being frozen out.

"I'm really happy with his commitment, his attitude," the Barca coach told a news conference.

"I have to take criticisms and I will continue to take them for what I think is best for the team.

"I've got no interest in justifying myself to a player of mine. I'm not going to do that. Rakitic has been and will be a good player for Barca."

Luis Enrique also espoused the need for his whole squad to gain sharpness during the season, suggesting that Suarez and Gomes will feel the benefit of their recent outings when the crunch is on.

"We look at it every week, we look at the minutes players have played," Luis Enrique added: 

"It's important to have everybody switched on but if you see an 11 that play most of the time and the others hardly ever... we want to make it important now and at the end of season.

"We have players who have played more than 1,000 minutes of competitive football. 

"Some maybe don't know how the team functions yet, but I think most players have played a lot and important minutes in all competitions.

"I hope they can improve and everyone can play their part at the end of the season because that's when everything is decided."