Ernesto Valverde: Six down, three to go

Ernesto Valverde: Six down, three to go

“We had nine points to play for [in this seven-day stretch],” the Barça manager said on the eve of Tuesday’s clash with Eibar. “We need to try and tune out the noise around us and focus on winning tomorrow."

Barça manager Ernesto Valverde fielded a grand total of 18 questions from the media in under 20 minutes on Monday, appearing relaxed and confident in his first-place team just 24 hours ahead of Tuesday night’s midweek La Liga clash with Eibar.

But with the bulk of the queries centering on the injury to Ousmane Dembélé and his possible replacements, Valverde made sure he got his main point across—that however unfortunate the loss of Barça’s 20-year-old striker, the team has plenty of options and will not have problems surviving such a blow.

Here are the highlights of what Valverde had to say:

On his general feelings on the Eibar match and whether last year's game can be used as a reference point for Barça:

"Yes, we can use that as a reference, they have a very clear style of play, they're a very valiant team, they come right at you and they don't let you play your game. They don't let you develop your game on their half of the pitch, and they make it hard for you to get out of your own end."

On whether Gerard Deulofeu is the natural replacement for Dembélé or if he wants to also look at the reserves:

"There are several players on the team that can play that position. Deulofeu, Aleix Vidal, Denis Suarez, André Gomes. Yes we will look for alternatives to put together a starting 11."

On given his experience as a player, what's the best way for an injured player to get through a long spell out of action:

"It's the hardest thing for a player, if you get injured and you're out of action for a long time, you need to be patient, you need to spend a lot of time on your own, and looking at how things develop, there are some days you feel better and other days not so good. But Ousmane Dembélé is a youngster. And this is another difficulty he's going to need to deal with in his career. And we are all here to help and support him."

On whether Dembélé may have already been injured before the game:

"I don't think we need to read too much into things like this. When players are warming up, they stretch their thighs and their knees, their hamstrings. He's a player who has never had muscle problems in the past, so he perhaps doesn't have the experience to recognize those little discomforts that he may have. He's a player who is very fast and the movement he made was one of the worst things you can do for your hamstring. It's not to say that it was normal, but there is a greater probability to be injured when you make a move like that, and a veteran player may have avoided that knowing that that movement is a very aggressive movement. I know that because the same thing happened to me when I was a player."

On whether Luis Suárez is putting too much pressure on himself to score:

"I think that's his style, that's the way he deals with things. He's very expressive when things go well for him and when things don't go well for him too. There are days when he's more fortunate than other days. That's the way football works, but ultimately things have always gone well for him. If he doesn't take those chances perhaps another member of the team does take that chance. That happened the other day. We have plenty of confidence in him. We know he always wants to shoot. That's not always possible, but it's great to have a player who is so hungry to score goals and I'm sure the goals will start coming for him."

On his philosophy on rotating and resting players:

"I don't think we've had any problems really until now. But every game is different. Sometimes we have less time to prepare. Sometimes when you play on Saturday. I'm sure we will make changes for tomorrow's game, but every change we make is to maintain the style and the rhythm. You can't get through the whole season with just 11 players, you have to make changes. Some people say that you can only rotate players when you are losing. When should they be made? That's something that you have to work out."

On whether the field conditions at Getafe can be blamed for Dembélé's jury and whether he would like standards to be imposed by the league on field quality:

"I don't think the condition of the field had any decisive role in this particular incident, but yes, I would like all fields to be in the same kind of condition. I think it would be good for the game."

On Paulinho and his game winning goal on Saturday:

"It was a joy for him and it was a joy for everybody. These things really give him confidence. He came on at a moment when the game wasn't too clear. We needed to come back. He came through when we were behind. He saw the ball, he took the gap, and he finished very nicely. Hopefully, it's something that he's going to continue to do. Sometimes players that get off on the right foot can boost their confidence and that of the players around them."

On what it means to be outright leaders at this point in the season:

"it means that we all know that football can change from day to day. A month ago a lot of people seemed to have their hands on their heads and were wondering what on earth was going to happen with us this season. Now people are a bit more relaxed. But things have certainly changed for the better. Who knows how things will be in a month's time? So all we can do is think about winning tomorrow's game, and not worry about the long-term future. Because everything can change in a week. We had nine points to play for this week, we have six so far and three more to go for tomorrow. We need to try and tune out the noise around us and focus on winning tomorrow."

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