Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde ready for Sevilla test
Julen Lopetegui knows Lionel Messi will be out to add to his superb scoring record against Sevilla.
Ernesto Valverde has talked up the importance of Barcelona’s game at home to Sevilla in LaLiga on Sunday.
Ahead of the upcoming international break, the Catalonia club have 13 points from seven games and trail Real Madrid by five with the leaders having played a game more.
Sevilla have the same total as Barca and will provide them with stiff opposition at the Nou Camp given their positive start under new head coach Julen Lopetegui.
Yet Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Inter Milan in the Champions League made it three victories in a row for Valverde’s men since a shock 2-0 loss at Granada on September 21.
He said at a press conference: “Sometimes on a Monday you hit rock bottom and then on Wednesday we are in heaven and Saturday we are back down again.
“We are on a good run at the moment. We are playing a very good team in Sevilla so let’s keep moving forward.”
Lopetegui’s side have won back-to-back games and pushed Real Madrid close in a 1-0 home loss last month.
Valverde added: “Games with Sevilla are always intense, home or away. They are playing very well this season, especially away from home.
“Four (league) games away and they have won three. It is a team that is looking very good and very confident. They lost at home the other day to Real Madrid, but they played very well and very intense.
“They have got some really strong players down the wing, who can cause a lot of damage and they play lots of crosses and they can be dangerous.
“It’s a really important game for us because it’s so close at the top of the table at the moment. We have managed to recover more or less the points we dropped early on, not all of them, but we are all there tightly packed together so let’s see what happens.”
Sevilla head coach Lopetegui will attempt to mastermind a win over Barcelona, but will also be wary of suffering a thrashing.
The Andalusia club have been on the end of 6-1 and 5-0 defeats to the LaLiga champions in recent seasons.
Lopetegui, a former Barca goalkeeper, said at a press conference: “Nobody is going to stop us from giving it our best shot and playing as well as we can to counteract how they play.
“We will have to be perfect tomorrow, with a will and desire to do well. We will try to make the most of any opportunity that falls our way and we have to take our chances and compete at all times.
“In every game you’re going to have your moments and being able to adapt ourselves to the game will be the key tomorrow evening. We have to be able to respond well to changes in the game but we already know the effort levels that will be required.”
Lionel Messi is expected to feature for Barcelona and will hope to continue his superb record against Sevilla.
The Argentina superstar has netted 36 goals against the LaLiga outfit, but has struggled with injuries this season.
He made his return on Wednesday in the 2-1 win over Inter and should start on Sunday, yet Lopetegui is not focusing too much on the 32-year-old.
“Barcelona are going to be what they’re going to be, what we have to do is focus on ourselves. They are a great team; both with, and without, Messi,” he said.
“If Messi plays then of course they are a better team, but we are focused on ourselves, giving our all and playing with a lot of energy.”