"When you see games on TV, they seem very calm,” Ernesto Valverde said tonight in Barcelona. “From where I stand, things are quite different."
The FC Barcelona boss guided his team to another win in the UEFA Champions League, this time against Olympiacos by a 3-1 scorline. "We have seen from other results that no opponent in the CL is bad,” he said, referencing Atletico Madrid’s 0-0 draw with Qarabag and Sevilla’s 1-5 loss against Spartak Moscow.
"We are satisfied because we had to open the game up, and we were able to despite being a man down."
Valverde’s played the second half with 10 men as Gerard Pique was sent off for handball. "Olympiacos didn't take many risks, they stayed back to preserve the one goal deficit and attempt to get a point in the last minutes. We wanted a second goal, but we were wary of counterattacks. 1-0 up, we didn't know if we'd score or they would tie us. That's why I took off Gerard Deulofeu, to a keep strong structure."
Javier Mascherano came on for Deulofeu, and after going into halftime a goal up, Barcelona scored two in the second half despite being a man down. It was 3-0 until the very end, when Olympiacos made it 3-1 with a goal from a corner kick. "I know Olympiacos is a team that never quits,” the coach said. “They scored on us at the end."
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu had said the Camp Nou was in love with Valverde these days, but the coach was more measured: "Results are good but things can change very quickly. We didn't win the Supercup, and we were doing poorly. Now we're doing well. We have to be calm, when things are good, and when things are bad."
Valverde also talked about Andre Gomes, who came in as a sub this game and has started to pick up more minutes: "Gomes has the luck that he can play in many places. It's an advantage for us. He has good technique, he’s strong, he’s got many qualities. People here cast doubt on too many players. I don't understand why."
He also spoke on the political situation in Catalonia, where the local government and the Spanish government are entering a standoff over the question of independence for the region: "Everyone can express themselves anyway they like.,” he said, diplomatically. “The stadium is a place where people express themselves, one opinion or another. But we all come together because we want to see our team win. I represent many people. Each with their personal views. I have my own. But I only talk about defending the club."
Lastly, Valverde was asked about a report from Catalunya Radio that Lionel Messi had produced a glucose tablet from his sock and taken it during the game. "I don't know about that,” he replied, apparently genuinely befuddled by the suggestion. “If it made him score, he can keep taking them,” he joked. “It’s normal for players to take them in the locker room.”