Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde says his side are prepared to take on anyone in the last 16 of the Champions League after signing off from the group stages with a 2-0 home win over Sporting Lisbon.
With the La Liga leaders already qualified at the top of Group D and a testing trip to Villarreal ahead on Sunday, Valverde made the expected sweeping changes to the starting XI as talisman Lionel Messi was among the substitutes.
Barcelona finally broke the deadlock just before the hour mark when Paco Alcacer headed in from a corner.
Ernesto Valverde says Barcelona are prepared to take on anyone in the Champions League
Former Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu netted an own goal in stoppage time, which left Sporting having to be content with a Europa League spot after finishing behind Juventus.
The Spaniards, meanwhile, will be among the top seeds for the knockout stages, but could yet find themselves paired against the likes of Bayern Munich or Chelsea, who both finished second in their respective qualifying groups.
Valverde, though, will take things one step at a time. ‘We don’t know what could happen in the draw. We will accept any opponent,’ he said.
Paco Alcacer headed in from a corner to set Barca on their way to a 2-0 win over Sporting
Valverde felt his Barcelona side, which showed eight changes to the starting XI which drew 2-2 with Celta Vigo, had produced the required result, if not perhaps the flowing performance.
‘Our plan is to dominate matches and to create chances, at the same time as making sure they don’t create chances against us,’ he said.
‘We try to do things as well as we can. Sometimes we play wonderfully and sometimes less so.’
Jeremy Mathieu netted an own goal in added time to round off a win for much changed Barca
Despite not being able to pull off a shock win which could have kept alive hopes of sneaking into the knockout stages ahead of Juventus, Sporting coach Jorge Jesus believes his side can head into the Europa League with confidence.
‘We are leaving the Champions League feeling proud. It was a spectacular tournament for us that ended with one more game against Barcelona,’ he said.
‘We are going to the Europa League with the aim of doing well in that tournament. The Europa League has some very strong teams and Sporting is one of them.’