Luis Suarez will be among the Barcelona players to sit out Tuesday’s game against Tottenham, but Ernesto Valverde insists his side will respect the competition despite having already won their Champions League group.
Barca sealed top spot with a win at PSV Eindhoven two weeks ago but second place in the group — and a place in the last 16 — is still up for grabs.
A win at Camp Nou would guarantee Tottenham’s place in the next round as they only have to match Inter Milan’s result to progress. The Serie A side face PSV at the San Siro.
Valverde said Inter shouldn’t worry about Barca’s desire to win the game, but did confirm that striker Suarez will drop out of the side as he rotates following Saturday’s derby win at Espanyol.
“There will be some changes,” the Barca coach told a news conference. “At the end of the day, it hasn’t escaped me that we’ve won the group and we can rest some players — more than anything because we just played an important game at the weekend.
“I know Tottenham rested players for this game, like Harry Kane, but we couldn’t do that. We have some players with knocks, like Suarez. He’s just come back from a knee problem and he won’t play two games in three days.
“We will see if [Lionel] Messi plays, but the important thing is that those who do play are motivated and want to win the game. Inter don’t have to worry about us. Our intention is to win the game, but if [Inter] had beaten Tottenham they wouldn’t have to worry about this situation now.”
Even if Barca do field a weakened side — Jasper Cillessen is set to replace Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal and ex-Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen may come in at centre-back — Tottenham still face an uphill task.
The La Liga leaders are unbeaten at Camp Nou in the Champions League since they lost to Bayern in the semifinal in 2013, a run stretching 28 games. The last time they lost a group game at home was in 2009.
Barca faced a similar situation last year, too, when they’d already wrapped up the group ahead of their final game against a Sporting Lisbon side fighting for a spot in the round of 16.
“We expect a tough game because Tottenham are a strong team, physically and tactically,” Valverde added. “It will be a complicated game because they’re playing to get through, but we will go out to win the game, as we always do.
“It’s true we’re through on our own merit but it’s no different to the situation last year, when we’d qualified. Sporting came here playing to get through and we won. We want to win the game because we know how good Tottenham are, but also because we respect the competition and always want to win.”