Wednesday November 22 2017
Valverde explains Messi snub

Barcelona Coach Ernesto Valverde explains why he left out Lionel Messi in the 0-0 draw with Juventus and insists he wasn’t “defensive.”

The goalless draw in Turin proved enough to ensure they are top of the group, regardless of what happens in their final game against Sporting CP.

“We are happy, I cannot deny that,” said Valverde in his Press conference.

“It was risky, but this draw is useful and we knew that a defeat here would make it dangerous in the final game with Sporting. We knew Juventus have a very strong home record, but we held out well throughout.

“I did think we could be more effective in the areas close to the penalty area. We ran a big risk at the end with Paulo Dybala’s shot, but the goalkeeper did really well. It wasn’t easy to lock down top spot in this group a game early.”

It was by no means a full-strength Barcelona side, especially as Valverde initially left Messi on the bench.

“He has played a lot so far this season and has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders too. We knew the game could open up in the second half, so I wanted to both let him rest and have an option to shake things up. It was an internal matter, we thought it was the right match to not play for 90 minutes and I don’t want to talk about it too much.

“Juve play a high pressing game, so if you are not able to overcome that, they can push you back. We wanted to dominate the match and allow very little, but it would’ve been nice to have a few more scoring opportunities. We limited our opponents throughout the 90 minutes, apart from in stoppages.

“We always want to win and when you spend 60 per cent of the game in the opposition half, I don’t think you can say we were being defensive.”

Last season these sides met in the Champions League quarter-finals and Juventus ran out 3-0 winners in Turin.

“We have restructured the side this season and tried to work with a stronger defensive structure, that is what we’re working on the most.

“We are satisfied and are proving ourselves to be a solid team. We want to dominated matches and reach the opposition penalty area as often as possible, but Juve have quality in attack and can score at any moment. They seem solid, I don’t know what period of form they are going through, but it’s always Juve.”