Neymar goal drought for Barcelona doesn't worry Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique has defended Neymar's contribution to Barcelona after the Brazilian star's goal drought stretched to nine games in the Catalan derby win over Espanyol at the weekend.

Neymar is one of four Barca players -- along with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique -- to be given an extended Christmas break and he will not be involved in Wednesday's Copa del Rey game against Hercules. He returns to Brazil without a club goal since the Champions League win over Manchester City in October.

A lack of success in front of goal has been compensated for with an increase in assists, though, with Neymar creating 13 goals for his teammates in his 19 appearances in all competitions. It's that statistic which Luis Enrique used to illustrate the forward's continued importance to the Blaugrana.

"We have to look at the amount of assists he created in other seasons [as well as goals] because this season he's created a lot, surely more," Luis Enrique said in a news conference on Tuesday when it was pointed out that Neymar scored over 30 goals in each of the last two campaigns.

"But I don't focus on the details of goals or assists. At the end of the day I don't think [how many goals he's scored] is important.

"He's a fundamental player for us, not just going forward, but also in defence and I am happy with how he's playing. He's an ambitious player and his objective is to improve his numbers and I am sure he will."

Ivan Rakitic is another player who has been in the spotlight recently. The Croatia international was taken off at half-time at Real Sociedad and on the hour mark against Real Madrid and has not played a competitive minute of football since.

He could feature in Barca's final game of the season against Hercules on Wednesday, though, and Luis Enrique insisted he has no problems with the midfielder, who has seen increased competition for his place from summer signings Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez.

"I have nothing to say about Ivan Rakitic," he said. "I am happy with his commitment, his attitude and his performances. I will make decisions which are the best for him and for the team. Rakitic has been, is and will be an important player for this Barca."