'They need help' - Luis Enrique defends officials

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Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has moved to defend the standard of refereeing in Spanish football.

The quality of officiating in Spain's top flight has come under the spotlight in recent weeks as a result of a number of debatable incidents and accusations of bias towards certain teams.

Centre-back Gerard Pique accused some LaLiga officials of favouring Barca's rivals following their controversial 2-1 Copa del Rey loss to Athletic Bilbao this month, in which two Athletic players were sent off while Barca were denied two penalty appeals.

The Catalans were also frustrated to see clear penalties not awarded in their favour in the 1-1 LaLiga draw with Villarreal, while the appointment of Jose Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez for their 1-0 victory away to Real Sociedad last week prompted further scrutiny in the Spanish press given previous complaints from the club.

Luis Enrique, however, says referees and assistants should be given more support rather than a public haranguing.

"I think it [the standard of officiating] is at a suitable level but they need help," he told a news conference. "We all see the incidents for our team and never those of the opposition. 

"They need help, not criticism."

Barca's 1-0 win over Sociedad has put them in pole position to reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals ahead of Thursday's return leg at Camp Nou.

However, injuries to midfield duo Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets has offered some hope for a side who have only lost three times in eight encounters with the holders.

But when pressed on who he will play in midfield, Luis Enrique said: "I'd love to tell you but I know that [Sociedad coach] Eusebio is coming for a news conference. I have four options - we'll see.

"I've already told you what Busi and Andres mean. I'm focusing on those who can play. We have solutions of the highest level and I have complete confidence."

He added: "At Camp Nou there are a lot of positive aspects compared to when we play away from home. 

"I expect the same response from Real - they have a result to overturn. We're going to have difficulties because of what this competition means and because Real need the result."