Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique admitted that the ghosts of Rome haunted the team at Anfield after they failed to capitalise on a three-goal first leg lead for the second year running in the Champions League knockouts.
Pique said the 2017-18 Champions League quarter final 3-0 loss to Roma created a mental block for Barcelona against Liverpool and their intense pressing only made it harder.
Pique also acknowledged the Anfield crowd, saying they played their part in making the 4-3 comeback win possible.
“When something like that happens, everything or almost everything goes wrong,” Pique told El Pais.
“I think people were mentally affected by what happened in Rome because it had happened so recently. It was a mental block.
“They pressed very high, we lacked our usual passing rhythm, and it was very intense. Anfield also played its role.
“It’s been hard to lift ourselves up emotionally because the days passed but the loss wasn’t forgotten. We have to step forward.”
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.
“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.”
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.”