Ernesto Valverde praises Barcelona players after 2-0 victory over Eibar

David Cooper 18/02/2018
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Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde admitted he had to adapt his tactics to get the better of 10-man Eibar in their La Liga 2-0 victory on Saturday night.

Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba were on target for the league leaders – a result which equaled a league unbeaten record of 31 matches – set in 2011.

Valverde resisted making changes at the Estadio Ipurua ahead of their Champions League last-16 round first-leg against Chelsea this week and the Spaniard was pleased to come away with all three points.

“Eibar are on an incredible run and played top quality football” he said. “We struggled in the second half and couldn’t get into their area.

“They were winning the ball in our half, causing danger with crosses from the wings and the pitch was very heavy. The game was as difficult as we had expected. But it was a lot easier when they were a man down.”

He added: “We tried to stay loyal to our style and beat our opponent that way. But you still have to adapt from time to time. In the second half they were on top because we couldn’t break down their pressure.”

“But they were taking a lot of risks by leaving so much space behind them, and long balls were the best way to deal with that pressure and get us into goalscoring positions.”

Yet despite the positive result which was their first in three league games, Valverde insists Chelsea will be a ‘different story’.

“Today was good preparation for the Champions League but every game is different and Tuesday will be a different story” he insisted. “We’ll go there and try to have a good game.”

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Ernesto Valverde admits Barcelona "suffered" but says Eibar win was vital

David Cooper 17/02/2018
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Ernesto Valverde was happy to see his side pass a tricky Eibar examination as Barcelona just about saw off their 10-man opponents ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League test with Chelsea.

The Catalans left the Estadio Ipurua with a first win in three league attempts on Saturday thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba.

The win saw Barca equal a league record set when Pep Guardiola was manager in 2011, making it 31 La Liga games unbeaten.

Suarez opened the scoring against the run of play 16 minutes in, before Alba made certain of the points at the death after the in-form hosts had seen Fabian Orellana dismissed in the 66th minute for petulantly punching the ball away, earning himself a second yellow.

“We had to win,” said Valverde following the 2-0 victory. “Eibar pushed us very hard and were at a very high level, and I attribute our suffering to that. They were on an incredible streak of their own so the win has double merit.”

Victory stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to 10 points although second-placed Atletico Madrid can cut it back to seven with victory at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

And even though Barca have their first-leg trip to Stamford Bridge in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, Valverde insists he cared only for three points domestically.

“This match was very important for us after two draws in the league,” he said. “I don’t care much about Chelsea, our objective was to win again. In Ipurua everybody suffers, nobody wins easy, but Tuesday is another story.”

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Luiz Suarez's clinical strike earns Barcelona a hard-fought win against 10-man Eibar

Matt Jones 17/02/2018
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Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba scored to see Barcelona ease to a tricky 2-0 win against in-form Eibar.

It was Suarez who opened the scoring early in the first half, a timely goal as it had been Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side that had begun brightly, and they could count themselves unlucky to fall behind.

The visitors were of course always dangerous, especially on the break, but the game was in the balance until its turning point, Fabian Orellana sent off for petulantly punching the ball away in the 65th minute, earning him a second yellow card.

Philippe Coutinho, Aleix Vidal and Messi combined to set up Jordi Alba for a second Barca barely deserved at the death.

Here, we analyse the performance of the Uruguayan.

Barca players celebrate Suarez's opener.

Barca players celebrate Suarez’s opener.

STATISTICS 

Goals – 1

Assists – 0

Shots – 2

Shots on target – 1

Touches – 43

Passes – 29

Key passes – 2

Dribbles – 3

Dispossessed – 0

30-SECOND REPORT

With Lionel Messi supplying the ammo, Luis Suarez was Eibar’s assassin. In a game in which the hosts performed stoically in the face of their illustrious opponents, the Uruguayan was a constant threat and outlet for the Catalans. While mercurial Messi sat deep and orchestrated Barca’s attacks, he always found a willing runner in his strike partner, who caused the home defence problems throughout. Sublime in the opening 45, he did struggle to affect proceedings in the second half, but with his deadly movement, he didn’t afford Eibar’s defenders a moment’s peace.

Kiss the rain: Suarez makes it 1-0 at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium.

Kiss the rain: Suarez makes it 1-0 at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium.

GOT RIGHT

Movement – While Messi was the conductor, Suarez was the melody, crucially putting Barca ahead as Eibar had the visitors dancing to their tune for large parts of the game. Intelligently raced onto Messi’s delightful throughball and then composed himself, finishing well to open the scoring.

Selflessness – Was at the heart of everything good they produced, bringing team-mates into play well. He tried to return the favour for the Argentine in the first half but after Suarez set him up, Messi slammed his effort against the post.

GOT WRONG

Passing – He doesn’t have many flaws, but his pass accuracy in the Basque Country was pretty pathetic. Just 75.9 per cent of his passes found a team-mate. Only goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s (65.5) was worse, while Paulinho’s was also 75.9

Finishing – One shot on target and just one off isn’t drastically bad, especially with that one on target resulting in a goal, but in an even game that Barca were never fully in control of, Suarez was rash when set up by Messi in the second half. A second goal would have likely killed the game off.

KEY MOMENTS

6th min CHANCE: Lionel Messi slips through Suarez inside the Eibar box. He lays the ball off for the onrushing Jordi Alba but his effort is blocked

16th min GOAL: Picked out excellently by Messi, Suarez races onto a telepathic pass from his fellow South American. There’s still work to do but he rounds goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic and slides in the opener

37th min CHANCE: Suarez, causing havoc down the left, races onto possession and commits Dmitrovic again. He turns and tees up Messi, who slams it against the far post

52nd min CHANCE: Good work from Messi down the right, jigging his way into the box. He squares for Suarez who blazes over horribly when he should do better

VERDICT

Ultimately, world-class players always make the difference and Suarez is one of the best in the business. Took his goal with aplomb, at a time when Barca were on the rack, and the player himself may have been a little short on confidence, having not found the net in his previous three games.

Faded in the second half in less than perfect conditions in northeastern Spain, but was crucial to Barcelona’s victory. While he may be a sumptuous player, Suarez is also a battler and he worked tirelessly as his side were made to scrap for the three points.

RATING: 7/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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