Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu gives Ernesto Valverde his full support

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Josep Bartomeu

Valverde has been under fire since the shock semi-final Champions League defeat to Liverpool, but can still achieve the domestic double this season.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has reiterated his support for manager Ernesto Valverde despite their shock Champions League exit to Liverpool.

The Catalan giants surrendered a 3-0 first-leg lead after losing 4-0 at Anfield in the semi-finals – having suffered a similar comeback loss against Roma in last season’s quarter-finals – to end their bid for another treble this season.

Valverde’s side clinched LaLiga in comfortable fashion, finishing 11 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid and will bid to seal the double when they face Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.

Speaking at a club conference, Bartomeu admitted the Champions League defeat was a disappointment but insists he has full faith in Valverde.

Valverde

“I want to value someone who discreetly and intelligently is helping our team, I’m talking about Ernesto Valverde, who we fully trust,” Bartomeu said.

“Winning LaLiga has an extraordinary merit and you know better than anyone what it costs to win this league.

“We had a lot of hope in winning the Champions League and the defeat at Anfield came after an excellent result at home and when the memory of Rome is still very present.

“I want to make a unanimous call for us to focus on the cup final. You understand what a ninth double means for our history. When the season ends we can reflect to see what we can do to win everything again.”

Barcelona have added to their squad for next season with the capture of FC Groningen youngster Ludovit Reis.

A statement on the Eredivisie’s side’s website said that 18-year-old Reis – the first goalscorer in the Eredivisie born on or after January 1, 2000 – had signed a multi-year contract at the Nou Camp.

Managing director Hans Nijland said: “In 23 years I have been able to do business on behalf of FC Groningen with large clubs at home and abroad, but this transfer with one of the largest clubs in the world is a wonderful final agreement.”

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Ivan Rakitic would 'love' to have Antoine Griezmann at Barcelona

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Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic has given his seal of approval for the signing of Barcelona target Antoine Griezmann.

The Frenchman announced his decision to leave Atletico Madrid earlier this month, and Barcelona are said to be in pole position to obtain his services after failing to do so last season.

Rakitic admitted to holding the forward in high regard, despite having to watch the France star celebrate as a runner-up at the 2018 World Cup podium.

“I would love to have Griezmann on my team,” Rakitic told Mundo Deportivo.

“Aside from the fact that last year he pushed me away from my dream of winning the World Cup, I really like him.

“He’s a top level player, one of the best in the world. He’s won almost everything and can add to any team.”

Griezmann has been here before, having turned last summer’s transfer saga into a documentary before deciding to stick with Atletico ahead of Barca for one more year. But this does not change Rakitic’s opinion of Griezmann.

“That wasn’t a decision against Barcelona or anyone,” Rakitic explained.

“It was taken in favour of Atletico Madrid. I congratulate him for that and if he comes here I’ll shake his hand and tell him that I respect him for the decision.”

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Ernesto Valverde hopes Eibar draw will spur Barcelona on for Copa del Rey final

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Ernesto Valverde hopes Barcelona‘s 2-2 draw at Eibar will serve as a wake-up call ahead of the Copa del Rey final.

Lionel Messi scored a quick-fire double after Marc Cucurella’s opener, but the champions were pegged back in the last game of their LaLiga campaign by Pablo De Blasis’ equaliser.

Barca head to Seville to face Valencia next Saturday as they look to win a record fifth straight Copa del Rey.

And manager Valverde knows his side will have to improve if they are to complete another domestic double.

“All the matches serve (as tests), but Saturday’s match will be different because the teams are different and because this was marked by the fact that Eibar didn’t play for anything,” Valverde said at his press conference, according to Marca.

“We tried to gauge the intensity of the game and we were good in the first half, but in the second half we couldn’t overcome the pressure and we had fewer chances and we made dangerous mistakes.

“We are ready for the final and the game served us well because we were put in our place.”

Messi’s brace took him to 50 goals for the campaign in all competitions.

He ended the league campaign with 36 goals and claimed the top-scorer award for a record-equalling sixth time.

Lionel Messi ensured Barcelona's season didn't end in defeat.

Lionel Messi ensured Barcelona’s season didn’t end in defeat.

He ended the game playing alongside 21-year-old Barcelona B forward Carles Perez, who came off the bench to make his first-team debut.

He said, according to Marca: “I’m so happy, it has been an unforgettable moment that I will always remember.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my debut this season, but the boss just said to be calm.

“I’m not used to playing on the left, but it felt good in the end.”

Barcelona confirmed right-back Nelson Semedo had “been taken to hospital for routine tests after sustaining a head injury” during the game.

On his squad’s other injuries, Valverde said: “We think that (Marc-Andre) Ter Stegen will be fine for the final and, while I don’t know about (Philippe) Coutinho, it will be difficult for (Ousmane) Dembele to play. I don’t know about Arthur.”

Eibar boss Jose Luis Mendilibar, whose side finished the campaign in 12th, said: “We have got a point that we had never achieved and we have also scored two goals against them, something we did not do against Barcelona either.

“I am happy with the game, we had our chances to win, but the draw is good.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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