Valverde discusses return to Athletic ClubOctober 30, 2017
Ernesto Valverde has discussed his return to Athletic Club on Saturday where he saw his Barcelona side win 2-0.
Goals from Lionel Messi and Paulinho gave Barca all three points at the new San Mames in a game which saw Valverde return after swapping Athletic for the Catalan side this summer.
In truth, Athletic were at their best this season so far against the league leaders with Marc Andre ter-Stegen proving a tough keeper to beat in the Barca goal.
Leo Messi missed an early one-on-one with home keeper Kepa, before opening the scoring and it was Brazilian Paulinho who sealed all three points, capping off a superb performance from himself.
Valverde, who returned to his former club has now guided Barca to an undefeated start to the season and they sit top of the La Liga standings, eight points clear of main title rivals Real Madrid.
Speaking on his return, he spoke of his feelings and praise for his former club.
“It went stranger than I thought it’d go,” he said after the game to reporters.
“I’ve visited in the past, but it was very different this time. It’s the same as when we moved into the new stadium four years ago. Playing against these fans shows.
“You have to suffer in order to win here. The law of San Mames says so. We were better in the first half.
“We posed them problems through the middle, but Aduriz was also one-on-one with Marc [Andre ter Stegen] after a bad offside trap.”
Valverde made just one change in the game, seeing Portuguese full-back Nelson Semedo replace Andre Gomes, and he was quizzed on his decision.
“Only Semedo for Andre Gomes? It was the right thing for our strategy. When you don’t see things clearly, it’s better to stay still.
“Athletic pressed a lot in the second half. We lost the ball several times and, with Athletic regularly prowling our area, they had chances. We needed a bit more rhythm.
“Messi? We’re lucky to have a player who decides matches. Gomes? He’s a player who’s very good in defence and attack.
“We have to help him in this regard. He can be a starter perfectly well, and the idea is to reinforce this.
“All kinds of news have come out this past week, but we’re focused on football. We haven’t gone wrong yet and we’ll keep going like this.”
Finally, the former midfielder spoke on Andres Iniesta’s current availability after confirmation he will miss the upcoming games with Olympiacos and Las Palmas.
“Iniesta’s injury? He has a small knock and I’m not sure if he’ll play against Olympiakos.”
Barca face the Greek side on Tuesday night in the Champions League.