Ernesto Valverde admits Barcelona ‘need’ Ousmane Dembele to realise his potential after the winger helped them beat Malaga 2-0 on Saturday.
Dembele has struggled to make an impact at Barca since his €105m arrival from Borussia Dortmund last summer but put in arguably his best performance for the club at Malaga, assisting Philippe Coutinho for the Catalans’ second goal.
“It’s clear that there’s still La Liga to focus on,” the Coach said after the game.
“While the maths doesn’t say otherwise, we can’t discard anything and neither will our rivals.
“Messi’s absence? I heard about it this morning, before leaving the house. Carlos Naval [the matchday delegate] had already called me to tell me about the situation, so we already knew at that point.
“My plans didn’t revolve around just 10 players. We put in another player, and that was it. It wasn’t very difficult.
“I had a clear idea about how this match would go. Although lots of people took it for granted, everything was much more complicated in reality.
“They’re in a difficult situation and it was noticeable. After Samu’s red card it became easier, but at 0-2 you can’t be certain.
“We couldn’t score a third, and so the match went little by little until the final whistle.
“Everything was left to what we did in the first half. We scored two goals and had chances of a third, but after Samu’s red, the match became straightforward for us.
“Still, we failed to kill it off because they could’ve got back into the game with a goal, but ultimately it went like it did due to Malaga’s situation and our game on Wednesday.
“Dembele? He’s a player that needs time. He’s young and had a serious injury. He had more success today, but the good thing is that he always tries.
“It’s one more step for him, he helped us a lot and he has a long journey ahead of him at Barca. We need players like him, who show face, have pace and can pull away from their marker like he did for the second goal.
“Chelsea? It will be tough against them, like it was in the first leg, because they’re a team that defend very well and are strong on the counter.
“We must suffer if we want to go through, but we have experience.”