Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde ready for Espanyol ‘litmus test’

Ernesto Valverde believes Saturday’s Derbi against Espanyol in La Liga is a ‘litmus test’ for Barcelona.

The clash at Cornella-El Prat is being billed as the closest between the two Catalan rivals in years, with Espanyol just seven points behind Barca and now a ‘different’ proposition in Valverde’s eyes.

“It’s a game that is played a lot from the heart and little from the head,” the Coach said at a Press conference.

“It’ll be an even derby. They’re in a good run of form and very strong at home, despite their recent results. For us, it’s a litmus test.

“This Espanyol is different, but I can’t say they’re more dangerous than last season’s because we had two very difficult games at their place.

“We lost in the Copa and drew in the League, which ended up being a very tough match.

“It’s possible that Rubi has a Barca model. Rubi’s teams have always been characterised by building from the back and pressing high, but their strategy works well.

“They were more of a counterattacking team last season. They were more equipped defensively, but now they go looking for you, they want the ball and take more initiative.

“Luis Suárez has been receiving treatment for the last few days and he’ll be in the squad on Saturday.

“Arthur gives us a lot of control of the game. He brings the team together with his passing. He’s very assured on the ball.

“He has to play more forward passes, but he helps you in the way of keeping the ball and bringing the team together.

"Arturo Vidal gives everything, he’s a player who always drives forward. We’re a team who control games, but we also need players like him. Football isn’t about positions, it’s about football.

“We want to be optimistic about Umtiti’s recovery, so we won’t make any decisions ahead of time.

“As for Riqui Puig, he only has to play well for Barca B if he wants to knock on the door of the first team.

“He should have more chances this season, in the same way that Alena is already a player for the first team. We hope that he’ll be one soon, but he needs time.”

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