Ernesto Valverde to make wholesale changes for Celta Vigo clash

Press Association Sport 10:37 04/05/2019
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Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde insists his team are not taking Celta Vigo lightly, despite his decision to rest eight senior players for Saturday’s away match.

Barca have already secured the La Liga title and are on the brink of a place in the Champions League final as well as preparing for the final of the Copa del Rey.

Lionel Messi will be rested at Celta, along with Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

However Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Arturo Vidal, Arthur and keeper Jasper Cillessen are among those expected to feature.

According to Marca, Valverde said: “We’re treating this game the same as the others.

“We’re going to try to get three points. We’ve put in lots of effort in the last three weeks and we’re going to make changes because it’s necessary to.

“It’s clear that we got a good result (in the 3-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg victory over Liverpool) but the tie isn’t over, far from it.

“We know this because we watch Liverpool regularly, we know what they’re capable of.

“Although there will be time to worry about (Liverpool), I know we can’t lose focus on the tie, but now we have to concentrate on (Celta).

“I could use (Cillessen) in these games. Each time there’s a possibility, he’s played a match, like he didn’t last year. We’re happy with him, he’s a great goalkeeper and I know that the goalkeeper position is very special.”

Valverde also reminded his team that their past three visits to Celta have resulted in two defeats and a draw, adding: “We lost here last year.

“We made changes in the league and cup, I remember. It’s the first opportunity to change the dynamic.”

Celta manager Fran Escriba has taken encouragement from Barca’s team selection, telling his club’s official website: “We are aware that Rakitic and Busquets are not coming due to a suspension. It’s a good opportunity for us because we believe we can beat any team.”

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When the league is won your foot comes off the gas, says Allegri

Press Association Sport 09:00 04/05/2019
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Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri admits his side have been guilty of easing down since sealing the Serie A title.

The Bianconeri clinched an eighth successive league crown with victory over Fiorentina on April 20 and have drawn their two matches since against Inter Milan and Torino.

Allegri’s team are still 19 points clear at the top of the table and the Fiorentina win is Juventus’ only victory in any competition for a month, during which time the club has also been eliminated from the Champions League by Ajax.

On Friday it looked like Juventus would lose at home to city rivals Torino for the first time since 1995 until Cristiano Ronaldo equalised with a late header.

Allegri told the club’s official website: “Clearly once you’ve won the league the foot comes off the gas a little bit and it becomes difficult to find the motivation.

“But compared to the San Siro, we started better and if we hadn’t conceded that goal in the first half it might have been a different game.”

Juventus looked off the pace for much of the first half and it wasn’t until Sasa Lukic’s 18th-minute strike put Torino in front that they started to play.

A much improved second-half performance probably deserved to see Allegri’s team earn a point and the manager took some positives from the match.

“It was a good game. In the first half, as well as the goal we gave up, we allowed them to hit us on the break too much, while in the second half we did better,” he said.

“(Leonardo) Spinazzola finished the game in the ascendancy, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo scored a good goal, everyone gave a good account.

“I’m also happy for the guys who have been making their debuts, today it was (Matheus) Pereira who had a run out, but they have been different players so far and maybe from here until the end of the season there will be an opportunity for some of the others too.”

While Torino’s long wait for a victory away at Juventus goes on, the point kept them in sixth place in the table and means they are still in the hunt for a Champions League place, lying two points behind fourth-placed Atalanta.

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Chelsea snatch draw at Eintracht Frankfurt to leave them in driving seat for Europa League final

Press Association Sport 10:15 03/05/2019
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David Luiz is still talking to Chelsea about a new Stamford Bridge contract, according to Maurizio Sarri.

Brazil defender Luiz’s contract expires at the end of the season, with boss Sarri admitting the club have held new discussions with the 32-year-old about an extension.

Chelsea snatched a 1-1 Europa League semi-final first leg draw at Eintracht Frankfurt, leaving head coach Sarri admitting the visitors blew a big chance to take control of the tie.

“I don’t know on David Luiz, I know that he had a meeting four or five days ago, but then my mind was on this match,” said Sarri.

“I didn’t ask him the result of it.”

Luka Jovic headed Eintracht into an early lead, though Chelsea grew into proceedings with Pedro levelling on the stroke of half-time.

The Blues were left to rue a clutch of missed chances though, with Sarri admitting he felt his men should have won.

“I think that we made a mistake in the first 20 minutes because my feeling was, from the bench, that we were playing only to manage the result for the nil-nil,” said Sarri.

“But we are not able to do that. Then we started to play after 25 minutes and played very well until the 85th minute and deserved to win for the number of opportunities.

“We were in control of the match for 70 minutes and should have won.

“But they are dangerous on the counter-attack if you give them spaces. We deserved to win, 1-1 is not so bad away.

“They are very dangerous at home, but they are really very dangerous away. I’ve seen Eintracht’s games in the Europa League, and they are dangerous.

“We want to go to the final, but we know very well we’ll have to play a very good match next week.”

Eintracht boss Adi Hutter insisted his side can complete the job at Stamford Bridge in next week’s second leg.

“Everything is still possible,” said Hutter.

“We have to score a goal, that’s a fact, and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge will be the great favourites – that’s for sure.

“But after the goalless draw here against Inter, no-one thought we could go to Milan and win.

“That’s how we have to act in London: be confident, brave and courageous. But I’m happy with the performance. Anything is possible.”

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