Ernesto Valverde believes Barcelona can cope without Sergio Busquets, despite believing the midfielder to be the world’s best in his position.
The Spain international hobbled out of the last-16 Champions League win against Chelsea and a toe injury will now keep him out of Sunday’s clash with Athletic Bilbao, while Luis Suarez is also missing.
Valverde is hopeful Busquets will return after the subsequent international break, but he is also confident in Ivan Rakitic’s ability to occupy a deeper role and counteract the World Cup winner’s absence.
“This is the first time [Busquets] is not going to be with us – other than maybe a game he missed due to yellow cards,” Valverde told a pre-match news conference.
“We have other players who can help us – Rakitic has played that role very well and we have other players – but I think Sergio is probably the best player in the world in his position. Replacing him is not an easy thing to do.
“[Rakitic] has had an extraordinary season. He is completely reliable. He helps us bring the ball up the field, he gets into the final third.
“He played both in central midfield and attacking midfield with Sevilla. Sergi Roberto has played [in midfield] and at the back. [Nelson] Semedo has played as a winger and at the back.
“Players move around. They do not necessarily play in the same positions they start out playing. Rakitic has moved around. He is a very important player for us.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 17, 2018
Barca are coming towards a key time in the season as they continue a treble bid, meaning Valverde has a nervous wait to see if any more stars are injured on international duty.
“Everybody looks out for themselves,” the coach said. “With players on the national teams, it’s tough. Some players have little knocks – like [Thomas] Vermaelen, we hope it’s nothing big.
“The World Cup is coming up, they [the national teams] need their players. I was asked to recommend players for different federations. They want results too.
“The most important thing is that the players use their heads and they keep themselves injury-free so we can win titles.”
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