Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde talks up Harry Kane but coy on Paul Pogba link

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde stayed silent on Paul Pogba but was happy to big up Harry Kane ahead of the Champions League clash with Tottenham.

Barcelona are reportedly monitoring Pogba’s situation at Manchester United, where his apparent rift with manager Jose Mourinho is showing no signs of being resolved.

A January bid for the unsettled France international from the Nou Camp could be on the cards.

But Valverde said: “We don’t know what will happen in the future.

“We respect players who are at other clubs so we don’t talk about them.”

Kane is showing signs of recapturing his usual sharpness following a slow start to the season.

The England striker scored two goals at Huddersfield at the weekend and Valverde is wary of the threat he poses.

“We know he’s a decisive player,” added Valverde. “We cannot compare last year and this year, what we know is his quality.

“We expect his best tomorrow and we must try to stop him.”

Barcelona have wobbled domestically in the past week, taking just two points from three LaLiga matches including a shock defeat to bottom club Leganes.

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic said: “The good thing about football is that every four days you have a new chance. Obviously results haven’t been what we expected and we have to do better.

“We have a great game tomorrow, it’s very important. One or two bad games doesn’t change everything, we still have to do well.

“We have to consider what we have done, we have done things even though we have to improve. Tomorrow is going to be a great game against a great team.

“What we want is to defend the way Barcelona play and that gives us extra motivation.

“We have a lot of respect for Tottenham. We know it will be really hard. They had a bad result in the first game so they will be trying, for sure.”

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Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino relaxed about Ernesto Valverde reunion

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Mauricio Pochettino insists there are no hard feelings as he prepares to go head-to-head with the man who ended his playing career.

Pochettino was 34 and still playing for his beloved Espanyol when Ernesto Valverde was named manager and decided he was surplus to requirements.

The pair will be side by side on the touchline when Valverde’s Barcelona arrive at Wembley to face Pochettino’s Tottenham in the Champions League, but the Argentinian says it will not be an awkward encounter.

“That day it was difficult to understand his position, but I talked to him in pre-season, when we played Barcelona in Los Angeles, and I completely understand,” said Pochettino.

“He arrived at Espanyol at not a good time for me. I could not see it at the time – but I can now.

“In football you are protected by this bubble and then, when somebody shows you the reality, it can surprise you.

“These things show you that situations in life and in football change very quickly and, when one door closes, many others open.

“I never wanted to be the victim and I am now going to face the coach who gave me the opportunity to become a coach.”

Harry Kane is desperate to outshine Lionel Messi at Wembley – and then start chasing the Barcelona superstar’s records.

Messi has already hit eight goals this term to add to the 500-plus he has scored during an illustrious career with the Spanish giants.

Spurs striker Kane has some way to go to match Messi’s phenomenal numbers, but the 25-year-old England captain is certainly not lacking in ambition.

“He set the standard, he and Cristiano Ronaldo have gone above the normal standard, when they are scoring 50 or 60 goals a season,” said Kane.

“As a striker I want to try and match that. He’s definitely set the standard for the rest of us and he still is.

“It motivates me to get even better and improve and hopefully one day score as many, if not more, than he has.”

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Pep Guardiola has one of his happiest days as Man City win at Hoffenheim

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Pep Guardiola described Manchester City‘s 2-1 win at Hoffenheim on Tuesday as one of his happiest days at the club and he believes key lessons learned from the away win will bring his side future Champions League success.

David Silva’s late goal sealed the away victory as City got their Champions League campaign back on track after the shock 2-1 defeat at home to Lyon a fortnight ago.

Silva poached the winner with just three minutes left and Guardiola was delighted with his team’s fighting spirit and patience against Hoffenheim’s dogged defending.

City were sleeping as they fell behind after just 44 seconds through Ishak Belfodil, but Sergio Aguero quickly equalised before Silva’s late strike, stealing the ball away from Stefan Posch to score and earn a deserved win.

“Losing at home (to Lyon) made things tough and conceding so early (at Hoffenheim) was hard, but we fought against everything today,” said Guardiola.

“We have to live this kind of situation, the previous two seasons weren’t easy to qualify, but we still went through with one or two games left.

“I think it will come down to our final game this time.

“This competition isn’t always a red carpet. Manchester City is a fantastic club, but we don’t have a history of having to fight and we fought for absolutely everything here.”

Having steered City to the quarter-finals last season, Guardiola said what his team learnt in Hoffenheim will help in the long term.

“I am pretty sure what we have learnt here will be good for us in the future,” he said.

“This isn’t like the Premier League or the Bundesliga, all the teams here are so good and they are so hard to beat.

“We are a step below the history in Europe of Liverpool or the Spanish teams or Bayern Munich or Inter Milan.

“We have to do this step by step. This is one of the happiest days I have had at this club as it will help us going forward.”

Back on the sidelines after serving a one-match ban against Lyon, Guardiola leapt off the bench in rage when City were denied a late penalty after Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann brought down Leroy Sane in the area.

However, the Spaniard point-back refused to talk about match referee Damir Skomina.

“I don’t want to talk about officials,” insisted the City boss.

Guardiola heaped praise on watch-winner Silva, 32.

“He is one of the best players I ever trained in my life,” said Guardiola. “I had a lot of special players at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but he is on the list.

“He is the sort of player who steps up in the difficult moments and he deserves all of my respect.”

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