March 8, 2019

Real Madrid exit a warning for Barcelona – Valverde


Ernesto Valverde has refused to rule Real Madrid out of the title race but says their Champions League exit should serve as a warning to Barcelona when they play Lyon next week.



Barca are at home to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday in La Liga, four days before hosting Lyon in Europe, with the tie hanging in the balance following a goalless draw in the first leg.

Their position is more comfortable in the league, where they sit seven points ahead of Atletico Madrid and 12 in front of Real, but Valverde insists there is no room for complacency.

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“I do not rule out any team, none of us do,” Valverde said at a press conference on Friday.

“Atletico is now the closest rival and our objective is to keep this distance at least. I do not rule out Real Madrid either out of respect and because of the maths.

“We see the Real Madrid situation from a distance and with respect, because we know that football is what it is, a lot can change in a week.

“When we see there are teams that go out of the Champions League after having good leads, and teams that are strong and powerful, it tells us how difficult it is to go through. Nobody is safe.”

Barca face Rayo, who are 19th in La Liga, on the back of consecutive victories over Real at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“There are certain matches that get a lot of focus in the season,” Valverde said. “But it is those with less focus that either give you the title or take it away.”

But Valverde admitted he could rest players with the game against Lyon in mind, although there was no place for Kevin-Prince Boateng in his squad, despite the striker joining in January to provide cover for Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

“Someone has to stay out,” Valverde said. “He has to work to turn it around.”

Clement Lenglet is suspended and Thomas Vermaelen injured, meaning Samuel Umtiti could start as he continues to regain sharpness following three months out with a knee injury.

“He is coming back little by little and trying to recover his best level,” Valverde said. “But when it’s been a while, you always need some time.”