‘There will be one or two changes’: Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde set to make alterations against Tottenham with Luis Suarez poised to be rested but Lionel Messi should still start
- Luis Suarez won’t feature when Barcelona host Tottenham in Champions League
- Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde is set to make alterations to his team
- Lionel Messi should still start and Jasper Cillessen could get a runout
- Barcelona are already through to knockout stages as winners of Group B
- Tottenham, who are looking to progress, will be boosted by Suarez’s absence
Ernesto Valverde hinted at resting key players against Tottenham on Tuesday night with Luis Suarez missing from a forward line that will, however, include Lionel Messi.
Valverde showed little sympathy for Tottenham’s rivals for a place in the Champions League last 16 saying: ‘Inter don’t need to worry about us, our intention is to win but if they had beaten Tottenham now they would not be in this situation.’
The rotations are unlikely to extend to Messi but it’s a major boost for Mauricio Pochettino that the Argentinian’s favoured strike partner will be watching from the sidelines.
Barcelona won’t risk Luis Suarez in their Champions League game against Tottenham
Although Barcelona are likely to make changes, Lionel Messi is still set to start
‘There will be one or two changes,’ said the Barcelona coach. ‘For a player who has been carrying an injury such as Luis Suarez, it does not enter into my plans to make him play two consecutive matches.
‘When you see the line-ups you will see if Messi plays but the important thing is that whoever plays they are very motivated because they will be facing a team who are playing for their Champions League future.’
Valverde said Thomas Vermaelen had a chance of playing in the game hinting that Gerard Pique would also be rested but Barcelona are under no illusions about the quality of striker Spurs bring to town.
‘Harry Kane is a world class player,’ said Valverde. ‘He is one of those players who makes the difference. He links the play well, he has a great shot and he is very good in the area.’
Suarez has scored ten goals in 19 appearances for Barcelona this season in all competitions
Valverde was full of praise for Harry Kane, describing the Tottenham striker as ‘world class’
The question had been angled towards Kane being a good player ‘for Barcelona’ and Valverde sensing his enthusiasm could be misinterpreted added: ‘I don’t like talking about players on another team. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have respect and admiration for him.’
Asked about reserve goalkeeper Cillessen he said: ‘It’s a possibility that he plays.’ If the Dutch international does come in for first choice German Marc Andre ter Stegen, and Valverde makes good on giving minutes to other under-used players this season Barcelona could take to the pitch without half their first XI.
One of the biggest decisions for the coach will be what to do with Ousmane Dembele who starred and scored in the Catalan derby at the weekend but then turned up two hours late for the training session the following day.
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde faces a difficult decision regarding Ousmane Dembele
In the past Dembele’s indiscipline has been punished by him being left out of the team. That evidently has not worked and he may yet find himself in the starting line-up despite his latest misdemeanour.
‘You win the derby on the Saturday and you then expect a quiet Sunday’, Valverde joked of the player’s unscheduled sleep-in.
‘We will try to resolve the situation in the best way posible. He is a player that gives us so much on the pitch but here we have certain internal rules of behaviour that are the same for everyone.’
Pochettino has history with Valverde. He was an Espanyol player in 2006 when the now-Barcelona coach took over.
He saw the then-34 year-old defender as a hugely influential figure in the dressing room he had just inherited and one who might make his job more difficult so he moved him on.
It was a decision that Pochettino did not understand at the time but would later credit for kick-starting his career as a coach. He had his coaching badges by 2008 and was Espanyol manager by 2009.
Pochettino also has happy memories as an away coach at the Camp Nou.
Not long after taking over he faced Barcelona in the league with the Catalans invincible under Pep Guardiola.
No one gave the rookie coach a chance but he led Espanyol to a 2-1 victory – their first in the stadium in 27 years.
This Barcelona side don’t intimidate as that one did. But Messi remains and it seems for all the planned changes Valverde will start him on Tuesday.