Barcelona’s Valverde defiant over future

Barcelona, Clubs, Spanish Copa del Rey, Spanish Primera División, Story
Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop are at odds to whether Ernesto Valverde or the Barcelona players were at fault for their Champions League exit.

BARCELONA, Spain — Ernesto Valverde said he doesn’t see Saturday’s Copa del Rey final as a chance for him to strengthen his position as Barcelona coach amid doubts over his future.

Valverde has come in for intense criticism following Barcelona’s collapse from 3-0 up to lose 4-3 on aggregate against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals. It was the second time in as many years that Barca had surrendered a three-goal lead in Europe under the coach.

Lionel Messi has admitted European shortcomings are a “stain” on the club but Valverde said: “I don’t think too much about if [losing the final] could influence me staying on.

“I just think about winning. We know, as managers, that we’re part of the spectacle of the game and that we’re always playing for our futures.

“It’s not just me, either. [Valencia coach] Marcelino’s had some tough moments, Real Madrid have changed manager twice. The club have always backed my work. I don’t have any complaints; I’m delighted to be here.”

Barca are bidding to win a 31st Copa del Rey trophy when they take on Valencia on Saturday and a fifth in as many years.

“We give the cup final huge importance because it gives us a chance to win the double again and to win another trophy for the club,” Valverde added.

“It’s not been easy to get here, we’ve had to come from behind several times. We know how difficult it will be against Valencia, who are in great form. We drew twice with them in the league so let’s see who can break that trend. It’s an incredible opportunity.”

While Valverde insisted he’s not concerned about his future, he did concede that the Liverpool loss is still on his mind. If he could prepare for the game differently, he said he would have held Ousmane Dembele back. The Frenchman got injured against Celta Vigo in a league game before the trip to Anfield.

“Of course I have taken conclusions from the game,” the coach said. “You think about a lot of things. It’s always tough after a setback like that. But it’s one thing to think something and another thing to make it public. If you make them public, it can seem like you’re making excuses or criticising players.

“Everyone has to take responsibility. I’m not sure what I would change in that game. I wouldn’t have played Dembele against Celta Vigo, when he got injured after 30 seconds. We also have to look at how we failed to pick ourselves up after the second goal.”

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