Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao Coach Ernesto Valverde has insisted he isn’t a candidate to replace Tata Martino at Barcelona next season.

Valverde was speaking at a Press conference prior to Athletic’s trip to Camp Nou on Sunday and has been linked with Martino’s position.

Reports in the Spanish Press have said Valverde is one of the names on the shortlist of the Catalans’ hierarchy should Martino leave the club at the end of the campaign.

Asked directly about the speculation, AS reports that Valverde dismissed the idea in emphatic fashion.

“No, of course not. The answer is no,” Valverde replied.

“I don’t know if it’s better or worse [to play Barca days after they lost the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid].

“It’s a reality that after this week Barcelona only have the possibility of retaining the League.

“The game is difficult whether they have lost the two other competitions or not. Maybe now they feel more pressured to break this losing streak after three straight games, something to which they are not accustomed.

“For us it’s equally difficult.

“When you’re in a negative moment as Barca have been it always affects the dynamics. But all teams try to compete against us and have a risk of losing.

“We’ll try to have a good game on Sunday and Barca have the resources to win and keep alive the League title until the last moment.

“When you are discouraged by losing what you want is to win the next game. And Barca are so good!”

Valverde added that this generation of Barca team are suffering in comparison to the one that preceded it, insisting that there are fine margins at work.

“The tendency is always to compare with what went before and any comparison with recent years is difficult to maintain,” he said.

“We all quickly got used to Barca winning and we didn’t know it ever had to end.

“Now there is talk of a changing cycle but look at things coldly: Barca could tie the Cup final late and force extra-time, which they could have won.

“They could have drawn at the Calderon [against Atletico Madrid] and had chances to beat Granada, while respecting what Granada did.

“If you’re judged in comparison to what you have done, compared to a team that won everything, you’ll always lose.”

It was put to Valverde that Lionel Messi has been in particularly poor form, and that Barca have a number of injuries going into the fixture.

“It doesn’t affect us. Messi is asked to pull a rabbit out of the hat every game while being the player marked most of all,” the Coach replied.

“If he’s so bad I wouldn’t mind him playing against us.

“I’m not too worried about their casualties. It would be absurd. We are missing players too and they are important.”

La Liga - Club News