Monday December 9 2019
Valverde: 'Lautaro a great player'

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has confessed that Inter striker Lautaro Martinez is “a great player having a great season.”

The Spanish giants meet the Nerazzurri tomorrow to round off Group F in the Champions League, with qualification for the last 16 already sewn up.

Inter, on the other hand, need a victory to join Barca in the knockout stages, although their task has been helped by no Lionel Messi tomorrow.

“I expect a great Inter,” Valverde said at a press conference.

“We’re playing at San Siro, it will be an important and difficult game. Even though we have qualified, we still have to be competitive.

“We haven’t won here in the past, but we hope to do so this season. There will be a great atmosphere.

“The choice [to leave Messi at home] comes from having a lot of consecutive games and we will have many more, so for this reason I left him at home.

“Tomorrow, the goalkeeper will be Neto.”

Martinez has been linked with the Catalans following an impressive start to the season, and the coach made no secret of his admiration for the 22-year-old.

“He is a great player and he’s having a great season. He is quick and strong. He scored a great goal in the first game at the Camp Nou.

“I know he is comfortable with [Romelu] Lukaku, they’ve found the right mechanism to help Inter. But Inter have so many good players, Lautaro, Lukaku, [Milan] Skriniar…”

Finally, Valverde was asked how he intended to stop Lukaku, who has scored 11 goals in all competitions for Inter this season.

“He has strength and he is good out wide. It’s difficult to find a similar player to him, also because he is good on a technical and tactical level. He’s made a great start to the season.

“I expect a lot from him tomorrow. We have to be attentive and protect the ball because he can hurt us.”

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