Ernesto Valverde insists the title race in LaLiga will not be over even if Barcelona win away to rivals Real Madrid on Saturday.
Madrid are nine points off the pace being set by Valverde’s champions, who won 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday to book a place in the Copa del Rey final.
Barcelona are therefore on track to win the treble but Valverde believes it is too early to talk about that possible achievement, although his side are well placed to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League having drawn 0-0 away to Lyon in the first leg.
Real Madrid are winless in their last five league games against Barcelona with October’s 5-1 thrashing at Camp Nou leading to the sacking of Julen Lopetegui.
But Barca were not at their best in Wednesday’s second leg with Madrid dominating the first half before Luis Suarez struck either side of Raphael Varane’s own goal to set up a final with Valencia.
And Valverde demanded an improvement in Barca’s performance while denying a victory would give his side a decisive lead in the title race.
“We have points to play for in this game, it’s a different competition to Wednesday,” Valverde told a news conference. “It’s very difficult, as I said the other day, for the same result to occur in the same game twice in a row but we would obviously like that to happen.
“We’re going there to search for a win that would be a big blow for them and a big boost to ourselves, but we know how difficult it is. Despite the result the other day, we found it very difficult.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 1, 2019
“When a team wins it always gains confidence but also when they lose they want to get back as quick as possible so we have examples of this. We want to keep it going and they want to get rid of the bad taste of Wednesday as soon as possible.
“Two teams that always fight to win, it will be tough as it was on Wednesday and also in the first leg of the semi-final. So things are tipped in our favour at the moment but that is no guarantee of anything.
“They were creating dangerous chances against us and we created very little bar some isolated attacks, not enough and there was something missing from our football. So yes we need to improve, create more goalscoring chances, as we didn’t have that the other day.
“We always try to win whatever game is in front of us. We reached the cup final the other day, a competition lots of people say we weren’t going for, but we obviously are as we are in the final. We’re chasing a final and it’s a great title we want to win.
“We’re top in the league but there are a lot of games to go. You can’t talk about a double until one of the titles are won, a treble even less so. We need to think about the league, show consistency throughout the whole season, and tomorrow is fundamental.
“We don’t think about what it means for the opponent, we think about what it means for us. Of course it’s good for us if Real Madrid don’t win but there are other teams involved in the title race. The league is still to be won. It’s not decided now and tomorrow’s result will not decide the league either.”
— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) March 1, 2019
Barca captain Lionel Messi did not score in either leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, while an arm injury ruled him out of Barca’s 5-1 league win earlier in the season.
“He’s the same Messi as always,” Valverde added. “You always expect a lot from all our players, Messi too as he is so decisive, sometimes he seems to be less involved but that has a lot with how the team plays.
“Sometimes the team as a whole is not playing well but we really need to work to get him involved in the game. If we get him involved, this is when he shines.”
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