Barcelona vs Espanyol - Ernesto Valverde backs Ousmane Dembele to get better

Posted Saturday, September 09, 2017 by PA

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde is confident Ousmane Dembele can only get better as he adjusts to life at the Nou Camp.

The France winger sealed a B#135.5million switch from Borussia Dortmund ahead of the transfer window, which if all add-ons are met will make the 20-year-old the second most expensive signing in history.

Valverde is, though, keen to keep expectations in check as the club adjust to Neymar's world-record B#200.6m departure to Paris St Germain.

Nevertheless, the Barcelona boss feels Dembele will go on to fulfil his undoubted potential, and could hand him a debut in Saturday's Catalan derby against Espanyol at the Nou Camp.

"Dembele has been getting better every day, (but) he is a very young 20-year-old kid," Valverde said at a press conference.

"We all know how an important signing it was in the media.

"It is not he was not quite on the ball (during his first sessions with us), but he needed some time to adapt to the circumstances, to know his team-mates and understand the way we play."

Brazil midfielder Paulinho and Uruguay forward Luis Suarez, who had been suffering from cramp in his calf, have only just returned from international duty to join in training on Friday.

Valverde will assess both players ahead of what the Barcelona boss knows will be an intense affair at the Nou Camp.

"I hope we will see an aggressive Espanyol, I imagine they will put pressure on us and they are a team that plays well on the counter attack," he said.

After tackling their Catalan rivals, Barcelona kick off the 2017/18 Champions League campaign at home against Juventus on Tuesday night, looking to make up for the quarter-final defeat to the Italians last season.

Valverde, however, insisted his players were fully focused on Saturday night's showdown.

Barcelona will be out to maintain their 100% start and keep pressure on rivals Real Madrid, who host Levante in the lunchtime kick-off and already have ground to make up following dropped points ahead of the international break.

"It is very important to keep our LaLiga campaign on track," he said.

"Our absolute priority at the moment is tomorrow and we will worry about what comes afterwards after the derby."

Espanyol coach Quique Sanchez Flores, meanwhile, hopes his side can make life "uncomfortable" for their Catalan rivals with a solid display at the Nou Camp.

"We want to do something important for our people and we hope to do our best because it will be demanding," he said, quoted on the club's official website.

"Barcelona will put us in difficulties and whoever plays we will find rivals of a high level.

"However, we will try to make them feel uncomfortable, and we have to develop our idea as well as possible."



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