Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde insists he is not about to “hide under a stone” as his team look to recover from their shock Champions League elimination by Liverpool.
The Spanish giants slumped to a 4-0 defeat at Anfield in the second leg of their semi-final on Tuesday night as the English club overcame a 3-0 deficit to progress against the odds.
With their European campaign now in tatters, the focus has turned to Valverde and the future direction of his team.
Valverde, though, remains defiant as he prepares to pick the players up for Sunday’s penultimate LaLiga fixture against Getafe and then for the Copa del Rey final.
“I feel strong, I’m good. I want to take the next step, I won’t hide under a stone,” Valverde said at a press conference.
“I feel like I’m in ‘The Great Escape’ – they have just caught me and I’m in the punishment cell, I want to play tomorrow’s match.
“After a blow like that, everything wobbles, we know what this show is like, if something like this happens you have to break and burn it all, but then you have to put it all back in its place.”
Valverde insists he has “complete support” of Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu as he aims to move the club forwards.
“We’re hurting, I won’t deny it, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our fans,” Valverde said, as quoted by Marca.
“We can lose a knockout tie, the problem is how we lost it – we weren’t good in the second half. It has been painful, there’s no other option but to look forwards and we have to take the next step.
“The bad outweighs the good because it’s the most recent, the defeat wasn’t 1-0, it was 4-0 and it matters at clubs like this, this group has the ability to excite people.”
Ivan Rakitic drew criticism for being pictured out at a local festival in Seville shortly after the Anfield defeat.
Valverde confirmed he had spoken with Rakitic over the issue. “He explained that he went to see his wife and children, he went out to the street and someone took a photo with him,” the Barcelona boss said.
“You have to go out to the street and accept the situation, (but) you can’t doubt his professionalism.”
Valverde hopes the Nou Camp faithful will get behind the team.
“We are all affected by the blow, but it’s the last game in our stadium and I consider it an opportunity to try to help the team and to lift them and not do what our enemies hope for, that we fight between ourselves,” he said.
“I know that it has been a hard blow for the fans, for the players, for us all – the best thing to do is face up to a rival to show your character and bounce back.”
Barcelona confirmed midfielder Arthur was to be assessed after missing training because of “discomfort in his pelvis”.
Striker Luis Suarez, meanwhile, remains optimistic about his recovery from keyhole surgery on a medial meniscus injury in his right knee.
“It will all be great, in a month I’ll be ready,” Suarez told Uruguayan media outlet El Pais de Montevideo. “It’s not the same injury as 2017, that was cartilage, and this is meniscus.”
Getafe hold a slender three-point cushion over Sevilla and Valencia in the battle for fourth spot.
Manager Pepe Bordalas believes no matter the outcome over the final two matches, this campaign has been one to remember for the Madrid club.
“Whatever happens, the team have played a commendable season. Months ago, no one thought we would be there,” Bordalas said.
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On Tuesday night, Barcelona were on the wrong side of a historic Champions League comeback as Liverpool ran riot at Anfield to overcome a 3-0 first-leg deficit.
While manager Ernesto Valverde deserves a huge chunk of the blame for his timid approach, the debacle also exposed some names which need to be eliminated from Barcelona’s roster at the end of the season.
The Catalan club are known for overspending, reactionary spending and a terribly balanced wage structure. It should not come as a surprise if Barcelona go for some big names in the summer transfer window and break their bank yet again.
However, it’s fair to assume that in such a case there will also be a massive off-loading of some high-profile players who have not been as consistent this season. We take a look at some of the players who could – or rather should – be sold by the club.
The 31-year-old Rakitic is most likely to be one of the first names on Barca’s ‘Sell’ list, given how his passive performances and relatively high market value go together.
The Croatian is currently nowhere near the peak he attained during the Blaugrana’s treble-winning season of 2014/15 and his performance against Liverpool exposed some of his shortcomings.
Rakitic’s tendency to always play the safer pass has ruined plenty of counter-attacking opportunities for his team and often puts his team-mates in a tough spot.
At Anfield, the midfielder passed the ball to a heavily-marked Jordi Alba and thus helped the hosts get their second goal on the night. One simple turn could have allowed him to find Lionel Messi in space and possibly help his team add one on the board through a counter. In a way, this was the turning point of the tie.
The fact that this is not a one-off example spells danger for the Croatian’s future at the club. There is plenty of footage of Messi shrugging in disbelief as Rakitic attempts a meaningless pass rather than playing vertically.
With Frenkie de Jong joining the midfield next season, Barcelona can dream of more progressive play from midfield and it comes at the cost of Rakitic.
Before facing Liverpool at Anfield, Suarez pledged that he wouldn’t celebrate if he scored against his former club. The irony in this statement stems from the fact that the Uruguayan has not scored an away goal in the knockout stages of the Champions League for over four years.
The statistics have overestimated his performance for the last season-and-a-half and hence acted as smoke-screen to the harsh reality that his best days are well behind him.
Suarez has scored 21 goals and provided six assists in the league this season but with Messi as provider, these numbers are not as impressive.
Messi has created 31 big chances in La Liga according to Sofascore and no other player has created more than 17. Suarez has missed 31 big chances and no player has missed more than 17. This stat puts the Uruguayan’s season into perspective and shows how much he has been living off Messi’s creativity.
Most importantly, the striker has failed to provide when it matters. It’s unhealthy for the club when the first-choice No9 has scored just one goal in the Champions League in one season.
The 32-year-old has declined physically, mentally and technically. With the knee injury and subsequent surgery keeping him out for the rest of the season, it’s likely that he has already played the last game of his Barcelona career.
The golden key was tried at the wrong lock and it never worked. It’s unlikely that the key can be melted down and formed to best fit the lock and, hence, must be thrown away.
In other words, there is absolutely no doubt about Coutinho’s quality, given how exceptional he was for Liverpool and his country at last summer’s World Cup. But the Brazilian never fit in well in Catalonia and the immense pressure born out of his heavy transfer fee clearly did not help. Also, he’s not at the developmental stage of his career where he can be re-modelled to best suit the team.
Coutinho has failed to impress both as a winger and as an interior midfielder, and both in the presence and absence of Messi.
The 26-year-old has been presented with enough opportunities by Valverde, often at the expense of countryman Malcom. If Coutinho has failed to fit in after one-and-a-half seasons at the club, it’s unlikely that he ever will.
Barcelona are clearly providing him game-time due to the pressure caused by the need to justify his enormous price tag and it will hurt the club if they continue to do so.
Henceforth, the Brazilian’s transfer value will only reduce, based on how things are going for him at the club. The Catalans are therefore better off admitting that the signing was a big mistake and discarding him in the summer.
Rafinha has played just 174 minutes this season and should be shipped off for a different reason than the above mentioned players.
Despite the quality, Rafinha has had injuries to blame for preventing him from reaching his true potential.
After a promising tenure at Inter Milan, it was assumed that the Italian club would convert the Brazilian’s loan deal into a permanent one. But the two clubs failed to reach an agreement over the transfer fee and Rafinha returned to Barca.
The expectations that the 26-year-old would replicate his Inter form at Barcelona were high, but injuries prevented him from spreading his wings. The midfielder last featured in a game in November and it’s unlikely that he will take the field again this season.
Rafinha will run out of contract next year and will hence be allowed to move on a free-transfer. It’s best that the Catalan club cut the chord in the summer and cash in whatever little amount they can.
Barcelona will not miss the injury-prone midfielder, especially with Carles Alena impressing this season.
Apart from these high-profile players, the Spanish giants might also consider getting rid of players like Jeison Murillo, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Thomas Vermaelan who will run out of contract at the end of the season.
A clean-up is due at Camp Nou and no big name should be immune.
Barcelona striker Luis Suarez‘s season appears to be over after undergoing surgery on a medial meniscus injury in his right knee.
Suarez, who played the full 90 minutes of Barcelona’s astonishing 4-0 Champions League defeat at former side Liverpool on Tuesday, looks set to miss the remainder of the La Liga season – where the Catalan club have already wrapped up the title with two games left – after having surgery on Thursday.
A statement on the club’s website read: “Luis Suarez has a medial meniscus injury in his right knee and surgeon Dr. Cugat will perform arthroscopic surgery on the Uruguayan under the supervision of the Club’s medical staff.
“The outcome of the process and an estimate of how long the striker will be out will be announced following the surgery.”
No timescale has been placed on his return but Suarez’s participation in the Copa del Rey final against Valencia on May 25 and for Uruguay in the 2019 Copa America, which begins on June 14, are believed to be in major doubt.