“This competition, the Champions League, is very demanding because it is played at another pace. We are up against a top side and we are aware of that.” That was how FC Barcelona Ernesto Valverde summed up Wednesday’s meeting with Sporting Clube de Portugal in Lisbon in his pre-game press conference ahead of Barça’s second game in this season’s Champions League.
The Barça boss continued on their opponents in the Estadio José Alvalade: “They are a strong team who had a great season last year. They are good in midfield and they work well on the counter as one of their strong points is their pace out wide.”
The game will be a return home for full back Nélson Semedo, who signed for Barça in the summer from Sporting’s city rivals Benfica. “He is a player who has adapted little by little to the team. At first it was difficult but that is normal and now he has improved a lot. Every time he plays, he helps us because he is a very pacey player,” said Valverde of the Portuguese defender.
Semedo also appeared before the press in Lisbon on his return to the city. “We will be up against a great team and they are working well together. They are a solid unit but we are coming to Lisbon for the three points,” said the defender.
The Portuguese international played numerous derbies against Sporting in his Benfica days and he concluded by admitting it would be a “special occasion” for him.