Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde insists the Clasico has not been weakened by no Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. “Pig heads were already flying…”
Sunday’s Clasico is the first not to involve Messi and Ronaldo since 2007, with the Barca superstar injured and the No 7 having left Real Madrid over the summer.
However, referring to the Luis Figo incident in 2002, Valverde said at a Press conference: “The Clasico is no less of a Clasico without Messi and Cristiano.
“It existed before them. There were already great players and a lot of tension. Pig heads were already flying…
“Of course it’s a bit weird to prepare for the match without Messi, but we have to pull together,
“I’ve decided on my starting XI, but I won’t disclose it. I don’t normally do it. Crises at teams like Barça or Madrid are inflated from the outside. Good players show their quality on the field.
“There’s a lot of noise these days, but we’re only focused on our opponents, who have many qualities.
“They have great players. They have everything. They play well through the middle, they’re focused and they finish well.
“They can shoot from outside the box, they’re good in a tactical sense and their defence is very strong. In summary, they’re a great team.
“I don’t think Madrid have lost control of the game. I see a team who create lots of chances to score goals, although maybe they haven’t been too clinical.
“Madrid have been brilliant at times, especially at the tart of the season, with a great collective game.
“They have enough quality to overcome complicated moments or the exits of players like Cristiano. We did the same thing without Leo against Inter.
“The key is that we play like we know. It’s what makes us strong. We stick together with and without Messi.
“It’s what won us the League last year. You have to be together in the good times and bad times.
“Dembele wasn’t late for the Inter game. When I did my teamtalk, he was at the right place at the right time.
“We’re only looking at what he can give us on the field, which is a lot. He’s young but we demand a lot from him.”