Tag: Andres Iniesta

Valverde insists Clasico will not decide fate of La Liga title

FC Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has insisted the Clasico game away to Real Madrid next Saturday would not be a decisive point for the La Liga race this season.

Real Madrid, double winners last season have struggled in the first half of 2017-18 and sit fourth in the table, and earning all three points at the Santiago Bernabeu would be a huge boost to the Barca title challenge.

However, Valverde, speaking after his team’s 4-0 win at home to Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, played down the significance of the eagerly anticipated clash and remains wary of another challenger to the title in Atletico Madrid.

“I don’t think a Clasico victory will give us the title,” he said. “Atletico are only six points behind. What we know is that this is a long competition, nobody will decide anything at this point.”

“We’re heading into the game happy; we have a week of preparation left and are confident. It’s a tough game against a huge rival, but we’re eager to face them.”

Against Deportivo, Valverde withdrew Andres Iniesta early in the second half to preserve the veteran midfielder for the trip to the Spanish capital next weekend. He was also delighted with the contribution of the veteran who contributed to the opening goal of the game at Camp Nou.

“What can I say? I’m very lucky to be able to count on him in my team,” Valverde added. “Today he started in a different position because of Deportivo’s qualities, (but) Andres played extremely well in that role.”

Valverde had also rested Sergio Busquets so that he would not miss next week’s Clasico due to yellow card accumulation, while braces from Luis Suarez and Paulinho ensured that FC Barca would arrive to El Clasico with an 11-point lead after a 4-0 win over Deportivo

Andres Iniesta scores rare goal as Barca stays ahead in La Liga

FC Barcelona has maintained their four-point lead at the top of La Liga with a 2-0 win over the bottom club Málaga at the Camp Nou after Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in over a year.

The Catalan club led within two minutes as Gerard Deulofeu scored his first goal for the club, but it should not have counted as the ball went out of play before Lucas Digne’s crossed for an easy flick-in by Deulofeu.

“It’s absurd, the ball was half a metre out over the line,” said the Málaga defender Luis Hernández afterwards. “Once again, a decision is made that we suffer from. We are not going to blame the referees for our place in the league, but it’s hurting us a lot.”

On the other hand, Barca’s second was less controversial as Lionel Messi found captain Iniesta, whose deflected shot flew past debutant keeper Andres Prieto — his first strike since scoring against Celtic in the Champions League in September 2016.

The game would had been sealed when a fierce shot from Sergio Keko looked to have hit Digne’s hand before cannoning up into his face in the area, but again to Málaga’s disadvantage, nothing was given.

Barca forward Luis Suárez should have scored a third with 15 minutes left but dragged a close-range shot wide after being picked out by Sergi Roberto, while Luis Hernández saw his header drift just past the post at the other end.

The result meant that table leaders Barca are still four points above second-placed Valencia, who remain unbeaten and had impressively dispatched fifth-placed Sevilla 4-0 earlier on Saturday.

Andres Iniesta calls for ‘open dialogue’ over Catalonia crisis

FC Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta has called for dialogue between the Spanish government and leaders in Catalonia to resolve the crisis between the central government and its richest region following the disputed independence referendum on Sunday.

“I have never publicly weighed in on situations that are as complex and that arouse such diverse sentiments as this and I never will but the current situation we find ourselves in is exceptional,” Iniesta wrote on Facebook. “I am clear about one thing, and before we do ourselves more damage, we need those in charge to open dialogue with each other. Do it for all of us, as we deserve to live in peace.”

Iniesta, 33, who scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final against Holland, is one of few Barcelona players universally liked in Spain and often receives standing ovations when playing at visiting grounds, has even been cheered even at Barca’s arch-rivals Real Madrid home turf, Santiago Bernabeu.

He played 121 times for Spain and also won the 2008 and 2012 European championships alongside La Roja, although he is injured at present and unable to join the squad for their final World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel.

Meanwhile, Gerard Pique — a teammate of Iniesta’s both at Barca and at Spain, said he considered leaving the Spain team after he was whistled and verbally abused by supporters at the Spanish training session on Monday but insisted he would not give those fans satisfaction by walking away.

Pique echoed Iniesta in an appeal for respect and dialogue in the wake of Sunday’s Catalan referendum as the political situation grows increasingly tense, but also refused to reveal whether he had voted yes, describing that as the “$1m question”, while dismissing the popular assumption that he is in favour of independence.

The defender, who had pledged to retire from the Spanish international team should his views for a Catalan independence referendum be deemed a “problem”, said: “My commitment to the national team is maximum. I feel very proud to be here. I have thought about [leaving] and I think the best thing is to stay.”

“Going would mean that those people have won, those who think the best solution is to whistle and insult. I’m not going to give them that satisfaction. There are lots of people who want me to stay. If you talk, you can reach an understanding. I am sure that if I sat down with them all, it would be different. There are people in Spain whose positions are very diverse and if you talk, you can find a solution. I’d like people to listen and think: ‘What he says is reasonable.’”