Athletic Bilbao coach Valverde: A lot of changes at Barcelona since I was there

Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde says he’s ready to return to Barcelona tonight.

The Zurigorri have not defeated Barça in a LaLiga match at the Camp Nou since 2001/02. However, Athletic have had some recent success against the Blaugrana in cup competitions.

“This is the opponent we have in front of us and we want the three points. I know it’ll be difficult, it’s a tough place to go to and they’re doing well,” Valverde said at a pre-match press conference on Saturday.

“Barça are having a great campaign in LaLiga. The other day they lost their first game and until then they had only won apart from one draw. We’ll have to suffer, but what’s clear is that we’re going to try. The team always fights to win and even when we’ve not won, they were close to doing so.”

Valverde was clear in his response when asked if Los Rojiblancos might change their style against a side who expect to dominate possession.

“We have a way of playing, which is trying to control the match,” Valverde said. “Obviously we have to take into account the opponent we’re facing. They have very quick players up front, with wingers who are very good in space..

“Otherwise we will try to play our game. It’s clear that each team has to show their style on the pitch, even if to a certain extent they adapt to the opponent. That’s what you work towards every day.”

Valverde is going back to a place he knows well. The boss spent two and a half years in the dugout at the Camp Nou, winning two LaLiga titles and a Copa del Rey in that period, not to mention the Copa del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup he won there during his playing days:

He said: “Ultimately, all the teams know each other well, but that’s where the difficulty lies. Of course, knowing some details can always help you, but at the same time you also know the strengths. Also, a lot of things and players have changed from the team I had to the one that’s there now.

“We have to bear in mind that Barcelona are the team with the highest possession rate in LaLiga and they also play to maintain that possession. Then they press very high, they push you against your area and try to stop you coming out. We have to be able to overcome that situation or at least try to do so.”

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