Ernesto Valverde has hailed Barcelona’s “very exciting” capture of Ousmane Dembele as Paulinho could make his debut against Alaves.
Barca finally completed the signing of Dembele from Borussia Dortmund on Friday evening, in a club-record deal that could rise to just shy of €150m, and Valverde was convinced the winger had what it took to replace Neymar.
“Dembele? He guarantees depth, he can play on both wings and even as a centre-forward,” the Coach said at a Press conference.
“He’s quick, technical and we hope he brings us a lot. We’re very excited about him.
“Until the window is shut, there’s scope for us to buy and sell. We have to fine-tune the squad.
“Champions League? It’s a difficult group for us. Juve were finalists last season and the team that eliminated us.
“They’re great defensively. As for Sporting, they were the toughest team in Pot 4.
“I also wanted to return to Greece to play against Olympiakos. For me, it’s very special to go back there. I’m very excited.
“Picture with Neymar on Messi’s Instagram? It’s very good for all this subliminal analysis, but it’s just a picture of some friends. We mustn’t give too much significance to this.
“Iniesta and Suarez? Andres is fine, we think he’ll be okay. In the case of Luis, everything’s gone a little quicker than expected.
“Dembele’s transfer fee? All the clubs are now making the most expensive signings ever. These are signings that create a lot of expectation, but we think Dembele’s prepared for it.
“Possible sales? They’re players that belong to the club and we’re working with them. There’s the possibility that some will leave, but I won’t speak too soon.
“Alaves? It’s true that they’ve undergone many changes from last season. They’re in a period of transition and we don’t know for sure what we’re going to find.
“What I do believe is that it’ll be a complicated match and they’ll have a lot of fans on side.
“When Dembele will play? I have no information at hand, but I imagine he’ll have been training.
“He’ll be with us during the international break, so we can get to know him better.
“Seri? He’s a player that isn’t with us. It’s not appropriate to talk about him. Marlon? We have five centre-backs and it’s is possible that one could leave, so we’ll see in the next few days.
“If you see our results last season, we achieved great results against the teams near the top of the table but dropped points against those further down.
“Tomorrow’s game will be tough, but we have to get in the position so we can get the three points.
“Returning to Vitoria [Alaves]? It’s my city and for me it’s clear that it’s special to go back there.
“The fans are very close to the team and I have a lot of respect for their style of play.
“Defence? What we’re looking for is to give more energy to the front of our attack. We have enough options at the back to solve any problem.
“Dembele’s trajectory? He confirmed his level last season and we have high hopes for him.
“Alaves boss Zubeldia being just 36? I made my coaching debut when I was 39 and took Athletic to fifth.
“When you’re young, you have the advantage of the energy for what you see ahead.
“You lack experience, but you can only gain it with more time and coaching. I see plenty of benefits for [Alaves’] young players.
“Difference between Neymar and Dembele? That one is with us and the other isn’t, but we used to like Neymar a lot, now not so much. Our players are the best.
“Dembele my signing? It’s the club’s signing, not anyone’s in particular. Messi’s renewal? I’ve seen him in a good way and I think we’ll stay with us.”
The Catalans have called up new boy Paulinho for the trip to Alaves, but Juventus-linked Andre Gomes is officially out with gastroenteritis.
Alaves (probable): Pacheco; Vigaray, Alexis, Ely, Pedraza; Burgui, Wakaso, Manu, Ibai; Christian Santos, Sobrino
Injuries/suspensions: Galilea, Hector, Laguardia (I)
Barcelona (probable): Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Digne; Rakitic, Busquets, Sergi Roberto; Deulofeu, Messi, Alcacer
Injuries/suspensions: Gomes, Ortola, Rafinha, Suarez (I)
Referee: Del Cerro Grande
Previous meeting: Barcelona 3-1 Alaves
Form guide: Alaves (W – – – -) Barcelona (W – – – -)
Kick-off time: 17:15 BST/18:15 CET (LIVE on Football Espana)