Ernesto Valverde says Ousmane Dembele is getting better with each training session and has “no doubt” that Andres Iniesta will stay at Barcelona.
Dembele is expected to slot into Barca’s left wing, as a direct replacement for Neymar, while Iniesta recently suggested he was not close to signing a new contract with the Blaugrana.
“It’s a handicap that we only have today to train all our players together,” the Coach said at a Press conference for Saturday’s Catalan derby against Espanyol.
“It’ll be complicated [against Espanyol]. They’re strong and you have to be attentive. The best thing about the transfer market is that it’s closed.
“We have to focus on the team we have. The team we have are the best in the world because it’s ours. We won’t take anything away from what we have.
“On the one hand, it’s better to make the Derbi about the fans. It’s an added motivation, which suits us.
“Off-field issues don’t end up affecting the teams, as much as the media make it out.
“Iniesta? I have no doubt that they’ll reach an agreement. Iniesta is part of the club’s heritage. He’s feeling good, he’s happy and he wants to give a lot more to this club.
“Dembele? He’s done well in training. He’s looked looser and more involved with each day. I see him prepared, so we’ll have to see which extent we’ll use him.
“Disagreements? Well, we’ve won two games, it’s not all bad… Arda? I haven’t talked to him, he’s had a muscular problem and, in principle, I’m counting on him like everyone else.
“It’ll depend on how he works. I’d like him to score three goals in each game!
“Will Dembele start? I won’t say, I don’t know my team for Espanyol yet. I have no explanation for the problems we’ve had after the international break.
“Luis Suarez and Paulinho came back [on Friday] and we’ll see how they are. I haven’t been able to talk to Luis, although I was close to including him in the squad for Alaves.
“Since then, he’s played two, intense matches. We’ll have to evaluate him because we’re playing in the Champions League on Tuesday.
“I expect an aggressive Espanyol side, with high pressing, but we’ll see. Sometimes there’s a lot of noise as to what Barca are about, but there seems to be a lot more.
“I know that signing big names creates enthusiasm, but it’s short-lived. We have to play well and win in order to sustain that enthusiasm.
“The game is important on the grounds of the League resuming and that it’s a derby. I’ve seen Dembele get even better with each.
“He’s a boy of 20 years and he’s very young. It’s not that he was lost, but he’s got more and more intoned with his teammates.
“Juve? That’s a question for the day after Saturday. Messi and Mascherano? They’re our players and we want their national team to do well.
“They’ll give it their all in [Argentina’s] two remaining games. I don’t know how it will affect them, but the best way for them to get to those matches is to be strong with us until then.
“Messi’s already the best player in the world, for us and almost everyone… The Ballon d’Or doesn’t matter.
“Fans? In our first game against Betis, the atmosphere was a little strange at first, but they got behind us little by little.
“We’re all Barca and we win together. The idea is that they enjoy what they see and support us so they can really help us.
“You always look at what your opponents did in their previous games, Betis and Leganes in [Espanyol’s] case, but it’s a derby, it’s special and you can see what Espanyol did in previous derbies.
“Politics? I’m here because I’m the Coach of Barca, focusing on sporting issues. The club bring together a lot of people with respectable ideas. I’m not here to express personal opinions.
“Benedito? We’ve found out about these things, of course, but at this club, we know our role and that is to score goals and we’ve not scored that many yet.
“The club are made up of members, they have some statutes, which must be respected, and they decide how this club work.
“Can I imagine a League without Barca? That hasn’t happened yet. Referees? It’s already quite complicated for them and we have to help them to do better. They make mistakes like we do.”
Barcelona (probable): Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Sergi Roberto; Messi, Suarez, Dembele
Injuries/suspensions: Arda, Ortola, Rafinha (I)
Espanyol (probable): Diego Lopez; Aaron, Naldo, David Lopez, Navarro; Jurado, Diop, Fuego, Piatti; Baptistao, Gerard
Injuries/suspensions: Javi Lopez, Oscar Duarte (I)
Referee: Gil Manzano
Form guide: Barca (W W – – -) Espanyol (L D – – -)
Previous meeting: Espanyol 0-3 Barca
Kick-off time: 19:45 BST/20:45 CET (LIVE on Football Espana)