Valverde: Athletic return strange

Ernesto Valverde admits returning to Athletic Bilbao was ‘strange’ after Barcelona’s 2-0 win against his former club on Saturday.

Valverde was the visiting Coach at the ‘new’ San Mames for the first time, having swapped Athletic for Barca over the summer, and the occasion was marked by goals from Lionel Messi and Paulinho in a Blaugrana victory.

“It went stranger than I thought it’d go,” he said after the game.

“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.

“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.

“Iniesta’s injury? He has a small knock and I’m not sure if he’ll play against Olympiakos.”

Tags Ernesto Valverde
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