PRAGUE, Oct 23 — Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde yesterday found some positives from the postponement of the first Clasico of the Spanish season, saying it gave him more options for Wednesday’s Champions League game at Slavia Prague.
Barcelona and Real Madrid agreed last week to postpone La Liga’s most prestigious game, which would have been a showdown for the top league spot, from next Saturday to December because of the unrest in Catalonia.
That means Valverde’s players will have next weekend off.
“We have room for different options for the starting line-up,” Valverde told reporters in Prague.
“We could make some changes, and maybe it’s also key to securing a spot in the play-offs if we earn three points tomorrow.”
“Just imagine how we can play having so much room,” said the 55-year-old manager.
For Barca’s first-ever encounter with Slavia, Valverde predicted a physical game against a team that “does the most running in the whole Champions League.”
“I like their team spirit and the way they attack, their wingers play up front and they attack on both flanks,” he said.
Barcelona got a boost at the weekend, sweeping Eibar 3-0 with goals from Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann for their fifth straight competitive win.
“We had problems early in the season but we went step by step, we overcame the initial troubles and now we’ve had a great string of wins,” said Valverde.
On Wednesday, he will be without Sergi Roberto, who hurt his left knee at Eibar, and Samuel Umtiti, who returned after an injury to play at Eibar, but then hurt his knee in training on in Tuesday.
“But we have great players we can count on — (Ousmane) Dembele is fit for instance. We’ll see tomorrow,” said Valverde.
Barcelona are second in Group F with four points from the Milan win and a goalless draw with Dortmund who top the group on a goal difference.
Slavia sit last with a single point after holding Inter to a 1-1 draw in Milan and a subsequent 2-0 loss to Dortmund at home.
‘We want points’
Barcelona centre back Clement Lenglet said he expected his team to “suffer.”
“We want three points to create insurance, because we will then play tough games at Inter and against Borussia and the three points would count in the end,” said the French defender.
Slavia coach Jindrich Trpisovsky hailed his team’s fitness as “the best we’ve ever seen.” He added that he had drawn inspiration from Barca’s goalless game in Dortmund, highlighting defence as the key to success.
“We have agreed that those who can keep Messi at bay will be immortal, so I hope some Slavia players will make history tomorrow,” said Trpisovsky, dubbing Messi “a football genius.”
“At least it was easy to get ready for Barcelona because the players know the team, they’ve been watching them for a long time, so you don’t have to explain who Messi or Suarez are,” he said.
“It’s a football game in the first place and we want to succeed,” he added, lavishing praise on his team for their 1-1 draw at Milan and an 0-2 home loss to Dortmund.
“The point we have is too little, maybe I’m immodest here, but perhaps the football God will pay us back tomorrow.”
“If we weren’t confident, we could send our wives out there to play. We want to win, we want points and we can’t worry about who’s facing us.”
“Our only chance is to play our game, and we have to be at least level when it comes to possession,” Trpisovsky said. — AFP