Valverde: Dembele not worth gamble

Ernesto Valverde admits he brought on Aleix Vidal over Ousmane Dembele because Barcelona trailing Chelsea “wasn’t the time to experiment.”

Valverde’s decision to replace Paulinho with Vidal and not Dembele in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg was met with some initial scepticism, although Barca went on to equalise against Chelsea.

“Our performance? It seemed pretty good to me,” the Coach said after the game.

“We went to a place where it’s difficult to play. [Chelsea] are the champions of the Premier and we carried their weight from the first whistle.

“They had some strong players who posed us problems on the counter, but they hardly had any chances.

“It’s a good result and I think we deserved the 1-1. It’s difficult when so many players group up against you. It’s difficult to find space.

“Therefore, you must fight back with quality, pace and good finishing. Did Messi drop too deep? Possibly, but they defended with five at the back.

“If we put five more up top, they’d defend with 10 players there and they’d enjoy the space as a result.

“We had to protect ourselves, so we’re happy in that sense. How do I see the return leg? There’s still a long way to go. That’ll be the decisive match.

“To some extent, they’ll be more obligated [to perform], but our approaches may be similar. Why Aleix and not Dembele? [Dembele’s] been out injured for a while, and for a match like this, Coaches go with the things they know best.

“Aleix also gives us things, a different profile. When we’re faced with a match like this, I rely on certainties.

“I had to play Paulinho as a starter and then bring on Aleix Vidal for more depth. It wasn’t the time to experiment. That’s how I see it.”

Tags Chelsea Ernesto Valverde Ousmane Dembele