Valverde looks to new year as Barcelona prepare to end 2019 at home to Alaves

Ernesto Valverde has challenged Barcelona to again take their game to another level next year.

The Blaugrana will play their final LaLiga match of 2019 at home to Alaves on Saturday, looking to stay ahead of rivals Real Madrid.

The much-anticipated El Clasico ended goalless on Wednesday night – a first 0-0 in the fixture since 2002 – as both sides missed the opportunity to pull clear at the top of the table.

With the Spanish Super Cup to come in January and then their Champions League knockout tie against Napoli in February, Valverde feels there is plenty to focus on again after the Christmas break.

“It’s been a tough season, as they all have been. We don’t have the advantage of the previous two, but we are in a good position,” Valverde said.

“We know that everything is decided in spring and we have to be in a good position.

“We’ve punctured all of our rivals too, which makes things very even.

“We want to close out the year on a high note and get the three points against a side that defend well and go out on the counter attack.”

Valverde added at a press conference: “There are things we would like to improve.

“We have high demands and want to be completely happy. Sometimes we achieve it but sometimes we don’t.

“Winning and losing are both part of life. We have to accept the mistakes we made and enjoy what we have achieved. Everything will help us.”

Valverde expects Sergio Busquets to be available again after the midfielder missed El Clasico with a fever.

Young winger Ansu Fati, though, is set to miss out with what the club said was a hip contusion. “His recovery will determine his availability,” a Barcelona statement read.

Alaves have not won in three LaLiga games and went out of the Copa del Rey on Tuesday night following a 3-1 defeat at fourth-tier Jaen, where defender Victor Laguardia was sent off.

Head coach Asier Garitano has demanded a swift response as he prepares the squad to travel to the Nou Camp.

“It will not be the first or the last game we can lose, but I am very clear that we cannot repeat that bad image which we gave and we are working on that,” he said at a press conference, reported by Marca.

“We already talked about how we had to go with humility and we weren’t going to look for any excuse, but everything happened against what we wanted.

“We have to recover the image of what Alaves has to be and the individual image of each one of us.

“After what has happened, we will go to Barcelona and see the response we can give as a team.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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