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Luis Enrique confident as Barca begin quest for three in row

Luis Enrique expects a tough challenge from the usual suspects on the eve of Barcelona beginning their La Liga title defence by hosting Real Betis.

Barca have finished top of the pile in Spain's top flight in six of the past eight seasons and are aiming for three consecutive league triumphs for third time in their history.

Great rivals Real Madrid have a solitary title during that era of dominance and Luis Enrique, whose side completed their preparations by cruising to 5-0 aggregate triumph over Sevilla in the Supercopa de Espana, pointedly referred to "some big clubs who have not won the league for some time".

"I always say that any team who is defending the title is the favourite out of respect for what they achieved during the previous season," said Luis Enrique. "But we all start with the same number of points, which is zero.

"There are always bigger teams who have a better chance to win titles but there can always be a surprise.

"Yes, we want to win it for a third time in a row. It has not happened much in Barca history.

"We are motivated. It won't be easy – there are some big clubs who have not won the league for some time and will want to push us.

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"Diego Alves' situation is different. He was promised a pay rise in the past, but we cannot meet his demands," Pitarch said at a news conference.

"It's great to have won titles. They are now in the past that we are very proud of them, but professional football is about the present and the immediate future.

"We won the Supercopa de Espana, but now there are other titles for us to focus on."

It means Luis Enrique's immediate concern is Betis, who he expects to thrive under new boss Gus Poyet.

"We have already seen this pre-season that he has got very different Ideas about how Betis should play," he said. "Some players have changed, I think they have made goods signings.

"I think they are a team who are going to cause trouble for us and can have a good season."

On former Real Zaragoza midfielder Poyet, Luis Enrique added: "Of course I remember him a as a player. I played against him a lot of times and he was a top-level player.

"He was at four teams [as a player and a coach] in England and did very well. He has got a strong background and an idea of playing attacking football.

"He likes his teams to press and win back the ball as quickly as possible.

"I think his idea of coaching will be more suited to Spain than England. I hope that after tomorrow he will get goods results."