Barcelona, Leagues, Spanish Primera División, Story, UEFA Champions League


With Real Madrid eight points off the pace, the FC crew debate whether they have any chance to catch Barcelona in La Liga.
Lionel Messi provided a goal and an assist to lead Barcelona past Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames.

Ernesto Valverde says results at the weekend highlight why Barcelona have won nothing yet, despite extending their lead over Real Madrid to eight points.

Real’s surprise setback at Girona on Sunday leaves them on 20 points, level with city rivals Atletico Madrid, who were held at home by Villarreal on the same day.

Second-placed Valencia, meanwhile, were reliant on a second-half penalty to see off bottom side Alaves in the Basque Country.

“We’re playing in a difficult league,” Valverde said in a news conference on Monday. “We had to suffer to win at San Mames [against Athletic], Madrid lost at Girona, Atletico drew, Valencia are second and they only just won at Alaves. Every point is worth a lot.

“You have to work really hard to win every game. Everyone will slip up at some point. This is a weekend that has really shown how hard it is to win in this league and that you should really appreciate winning games.”

Asked if he’s now more worried about Valencia, who are four points behind Barca, than Madrid, Valverde added: “We’re worried about all of them and none of them. Of course, [Valencia] are directly behind us, but it’s not a question of being worried. We only worry about ourselves. We need to win our games and not look over our shoulders.

“It’s still early. These aren’t definitive distances. Real and Atletico are our natural rivals, but Valencia are four points back and having great season… let’s not forget Sevilla, either. We need to worry about all our opponents but most importantly can’t forget ourselves.”

Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona are enjoying an eight-point lead over both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

With Saturday’s 2-0 win against Athletic, Barca secured their best-ever start to a La Liga campaign and were able to relax and watch Girona’s win over Madrid at Montilivi.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I saw the game and it was a great result,” forward Gerard Deulofeu said. “But we just focus on ourselves, that’s the only way.

“The good thing is that we’re doing well and we’re full of confidence. If direct opponents are dropping points, even better, but out priority is ourselves.”

Deulofeu, who returned to the club from Everton in the summer, has found his feet in the last month, scoring two goals in his last two appearances, but he says there’s more to come ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Olympiakos.

“There’s a lot more to be seen of me,” he added. “This is just the start. I am playing well and in the three or four games I’ve played in recently I have felt much more comfortable.

“I have to be myself because I want to be here for a long time and be a success at Barca. I need to be aggressive on the wing and I need to get out there and do what coach wants of me. Hopefully, I get another chance [on Tuesday].”

Barca, who will be without the injured Andres Iniesta and the suspended Gerard Pique, could secure their place in the round-of-16 with a win against the Greek side on what will be an emotional night for Valverde.

“It’s really exciting to come back to Athens, to this stadium, because meant so much to me,” he said of his return to Olympiakos, a club he coached on two occasions earlier in his career.

“I am looking forward to the game in every sense. It’s an important game; we could even qualify for the next round. But it’s also an important game for Olympiakos. And to come back to a club I was at for so many years is obviously extraordinary emotional for me.”

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.



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