Barcelona vs Alaves - Valverde warns Barcelona to respect ‘revitalised’ Alaves



Posted Sunday, January 28, 2018 by PA

Barcelona vs Alaves - Valverde warns Barcelona to respect ‘revitalised’ Alaves

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has warned his side not to rest on their laurels ahead of Sunday’s clash with a “revitalised” Alaves at the Nou Camp.

Barca continued their march towards a possible trophy treble in midweek when they defeated local rivals Espanyol to reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

With an 11-point lead at the top of LaLiga and a Champions League last-16 tie against Chelsea coming up next month, things are looking good for the Catalan giants.

Valverde is taking nothing for granted though, and was keen to stress that his side could still come unstuck if they start to ease off.

He told a press conference: “I don’t think our lead in the league is sufficient or allows us to look at other things. If we start to think like that then that lead will disappear.”

The Barca boss also refused to rule arch-rivals Real Madrid out of the title reckoning.

The defending champions began the weekend 19 points adrift of Barca but cut the gap with their 4-1 win at Valencia on Saturday and also still boast a game in hand.

Valverde said: “We look at those who are right behind us, which is Atletico Madrid, but we know that Valencia are having a good season, then there is Real Madrid, who you can never discard because they can win a lot of matches.”

Barca can restore their huge lead over Madrid with victory over Alaves, but Valverde believes that may be easier said than done.

In last season’s corresponding fixture a newly-promoted Alaves stunned Barca 2-1 at the Nou Camp and they have now picked up four wins and a draw from their last seven league games to move out of the relegation zone.

They also pushed Valencia close in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals before losing on penalties in midweek, and Valverde said: “They are in their best form of the season.

“They had a great tie against Valencia and Abelardo has revitalised them.”

Valverde could opt to give club-record signing Philippe Coutinho his first start after the Brazil international made his debut off the bench in Thursday’s cup win over Espanyol.

Fellow new arrival Yerry Mina is also in contention to make his first appearance but Ousmane Dembele,  Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Gomes are unfit.

Alaves’ upturn in form has left them two points above the relegation zone and coach Abelardo hopes they can continue that improvement at the Nou Camp.

The former Barcelona defender, who took charge of Alaves at the start of December, said on his club’s website: “It’s a great challenge and very few teams manage to beat Barcelona, but Alaves will go out to win.

“We’re going there with high hopes and we’re going to try and play our game.”

The 47-year-old concedes it will not be easy, though.

“They have a lot of weapons and can beat you in very different ways,” he added.

Alaves are without Rodrigo Ely and Tomas Pina through suspension, while Dani Torres was a late withdrawal and joins Manu Garcia, Burgui and Hector as injury absentees.

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