Valverde: Two will replace Iniesta

Ernesto Valverde has confirmed that Philippe Coutinho and Carles Alena will be tasked with replacing Andres Iniesta at Barcelona next season.

Coutinho was a club-record signing in January, while Alena is a product of La Masia and currently helping Barca B in their bid to avoid relegation from the Segunda.

“Finishing the season unbeaten, in principle, is never an objective, but after winning the League, we must look for incentives with regards to what we have left of the season and this is a clear incentive,” said the Coach at a Press conference for Sunday’s trip to Levante in La Liga.

“Going a season unbeaten has taken many years to pull off and now we have the possibility of doing so.

“We’ll see if we can do it because it would be something historic. Looking at Levante throughout the season, I always thought they had enough to be higher than where they are in the table.

“Winning seven of the last nine games seems incredible to me. Now they are playing with the shackles off and in a great state of confidence. We’ll have to fight against them.

“Post-Iniesta? We have Coutinho, who can help us in that position, and Alena in Barca B. We also lost a very important player last summer [Neymar].

“It seemed like a disaster and we had to adapt to another reality. We’ve known about Andres for a while.

“Using players from the academy is essential if the squad isn’t too big. Between 20 and 22 players is fine for me because I’m usually very close to my team.

Barca will travel to South Africa after the game for a friendly with Mamelodi Sundows, as part of the country’s centenary celebrations for Nelson Mandela.

“We’ll treat it as a special training session,” explained the Basque.

“My idea is to take two teams, fulfil the club’s commitments and not take any risks.”

Tags Andres Iniesta Carles Alena Ernesto Valverde Philippe Coutinho