Valverde determined to escape ‘punishment cell’ and drive Barcelona forward

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde insists he is not about to “hide under a stone” as his team look to recover from their shock Champions League elimination by Liverpool.

The Spanish giants slumped to a 4-0 defeat at Anfield in the second leg of their semi-final on Tuesday night as the English club overcame a 3-0 deficit to progress against the odds.

With their European campaign now in tatters, the focus has turned to Valverde and the future direction of his team.

Lionel Messi (left) and his team endured a night to forget at Anfield (PA)
Lionel Messi and his team endured a night to forget at Anfield (Peter Byrne/PA)

Valverde, though, remains defiant as he prepares to pick the players up for Sunday’s penultimate LaLiga fixture against Getafe and then for the Copa del Rey final.

“I feel strong, I’m good. I want to take the next step, I won’t hide under a stone,” Valverde said at a press conference.

“I feel like I’m in ‘The Great Escape’ – they have just caught me and I’m in the punishment cell, I want to play tomorrow’s match.

“After a blow like that, everything wobbles, we know what this show is like, if something like this happens you have to break and burn it all, but then you have to put it all back in its place.”

Valverde insists he has “complete support” of Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu as he aims to move the club forwards.

“We’re hurting, I won’t deny it, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our fans,” Valverde said, as quoted by Marca.

“We can lose a knockout tie, the problem is how we lost it – we weren’t good in the second half. It has been painful, there’s no other option but to look forwards and we have to take the next step.

“The bad outweighs the good because it’s the most recent, the defeat wasn’t 1-0, it was 4-0 and it matters at clubs like this, this group has the ability to excite people.”

Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic (PA)
Ivan Rakitic found himself criticised in the wake of the Anfield defeat (Nick Potts/PA)

Ivan Rakitic drew criticism for being pictured out at a local festival in Seville shortly after the Anfield defeat.

Valverde confirmed he had spoken with Rakitic over the issue. “He explained that he went to see his wife and children, he went out to the street and someone took a photo with him,” the Barcelona boss said.

“You have to go out to the street and accept the situation, (but) you can’t doubt his professionalism.”

Valverde hopes the Nou Camp faithful will get behind the team.

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde wants everyone to move forwards (Peter Byrne/PA)
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde wants everyone to move forwards (Peter Byrne/PA)

“We are all affected by the blow, but it’s the last game in our stadium and I consider it an opportunity to try to help the team and to lift them and not do what our enemies hope for, that we fight between ourselves,” he said.

“I know that it has been a hard blow for the fans, for the players, for us all – the best thing to do is face up to a rival to show your character and bounce back.”

Barcelona confirmed midfielder Arthur was to be assessed after missing training because of “discomfort in his pelvis”.

Striker Luis Suarez, meanwhile, remains optimistic about his recovery from keyhole surgery on a medial meniscus injury in his right knee.

“It will all be great, in a month I’ll be ready,” Suarez told Uruguayan media outlet El Pais de Montevideo. “It’s not the same injury as 2017, that was cartilage, and this is meniscus.”

Getafe hold a slender three-point cushion over Sevilla and Valencia in the battle for fourth spot.

Manager Pepe Bordalas believes no matter the outcome over the final two matches, this campaign has been one to remember for the Madrid club.

“Whatever happens, the team have played a commendable season. Months ago, no one thought we would be there,” Bordalas said.

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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