Barcelona, Clubs, Story, UEFA Champions League

Julien Laurens says he can’t watch Barcelona play anymore and it’s Ernesto Valverde’s fault.

Barcelona will be without three of their first-choice back four for Wednesday’s Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund, but coach Ernesto Valverde played down the idea of a defensive crisis, insisting his side remain well-covered at the back.

Barca are top of their group and a win against the Germans at Camp Nou would see them qualify for the last 16. However, anything but three points would likely leave them needing to get a result away at Inter Milan in their final game next month.

Gerard Pique is suspended for Dortmund’s visit, while full-backs Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba are both injured. Clement Lenglet, meanwhile, missed the weekend’s win over Leganes but Valverde says he should be fit to feature.

“Lenglet picked up a calf problem with France and we didn’t risk him,” Valverde said in a news conference. “But he trained on Monday and we think he will be OK for Wednesday. Pique is out but we also have Samuel [Umtiti], who did well at Leganes, and then there’s the possibility of [Jean-Clair] Todibo and [Ronald] Araujo.”

Sergi Roberto will return from suspension to fill in for Semedo at right-back, while Junior Firpo is expected to continue at left-back in the absence of Alba.

Away from a lack of bodies in defence, Barcelona’s performances this season have drawn fierce criticism from the local press. Even when winning, as they did on Saturday, there have been complaints about the manner of their displays. Diario Sport dubbed it a “worrying win.”

Valverde conceded there’s room for improvement but was keen to add balance, pointing out that the Blaugrana remain top of La Liga and their Champions League group. They are also unbeaten in 34 games at Camp Nou in Europe, dating back to a loss against Bayern Munich in 2013.

“It’s clear we have to improve,” Valverde added. “No one is hiding that but we cannot lose perspective. Last year there was also criticism because we lost at Leganes. There was also criticism two years ago when we won 3-0. It’s difficult to play there.

“We also have to value when we do play well and look for the positives. The other day we came from behind and the players displayed a good attitude.”

Given the zest with which Ajax played on their run to the Champions League semifinal last season, midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who swapped the Dutch champions for Barcelona in the summer, had earlier been asked if he regretted the move given the side’s perceived stylistic shortcomings.

“Of course not!” he responded. “I’m really happy to be here. It’s everything I ever dreamed of. Of course we can play better. We’re working really hard to improve — hopefully you’ll see that [against Dortmund].

“We know where we can improve. We are talking about it a lot. We have an amazing team, most of the best players in the world, but we know we can perform way better, even if things aren’t as bad as people are thinking.”

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