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