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Valverde talks Coutinho, Pique comments and Neymar to Real Madrid ahead of Alaves clash

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2018 Copa Del Rey Football Espanyol v FC Barcelona Jan 17th Photo by Pedro Salado/Action Plus via Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde has held his pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Alaves and had quite a lot to say.

The Barca boss seemed to hint he would play a strong team on Sunday and also spoke about new boys Yerry Mina and Philippe Coutinho.

He was also asked about Neymar moving to Real Madrid, and doesn’t think it’s out of the question. Here are the best bits...

Valverde on team for Alaves

There could be changes to the team. We don’t think we are so far ahead in the league we can start thinking about other competitions. If we start thinking like that we will pay the price. Tomorrow we want to put out our best and most competitive team out against a team that is coming here to win the game. We need to get three points tomorrow it’s important.

Valverde talks Pique and Espanyol

A lot has been said about what Pique said and then Espanyol’s appeal. That’s all part of the rivalry. The games are always very intense at both grounds. So perhaps something seems excessive to one team, some people say the appeal from Espanyol was excessive. We all know what Espanyol did in those two games, they were a really tough rival to play against. They were still in it until the very end. It was really hard to win that cup tie. They are a local rival, so let’s not deny the rivalry.

Valverde on possibility of transfers before the window closes

The days are passing I don’t think there are likely to be many more changes. I don’t know, I can’t guarantee anything

Valverde on Yerry Mina

Yerry Mina has a chance to play tomorrow, so does everyone else. I’m not going to guarantee he will play tomorrow. He’s doing very well in training, he’s adapting to the team and waiting for me to give him a chance to play.

Valverde on Philippe Coutinho

We need to learn how he plays in our system and he needs to learn how to play with his team-mates. He’s different to any player we’ve got. Iniesta is perhaps more of a central midfielder, whereas Coutinho has maybe a better shot and plays further up.

He has a certain elegance. I think we could play him in midfield. He doesn’t need to change much to fit in. I think Coutinho and Iniesta are different types of players, but also complimentary. They could play together perfectly well. They can play in the same position, but let’s see how things develop.

Valverde on who are Barca’s biggest title rivals

We always look at who is directly behind us and that’s Atletico. We also know Valencia are having a good season, you can never discount Real Madrid. They are a team that can suddenly go and win a lot of games consecutively. They are really strong competitors who are always there at the end of the day. We don’t want to give anyone any margin to get back into the race and cut down the points difference.

Valverde on Neymar

There are players here who probably wouldn’t be if Neymar hadn’t left. The loss of someone like Neymar, you look as though you’d lose a lot up front but we’re still scoring a lot of goals. We have a structure that helps the goals keep coming. We have restructed the defence and that works right throughout the team. Perhaps if he had still been here we would have done things differently, I’m sure we would have done.

Valverde on Munir

He’s doing very well, he’s fitted in, scored goals and he’s an important part of Alaves. I hope he doesn’t score goals against us like he did last year at Valencia. He’s a player we need to be careful of, he’s very hardworking. The idea of sending him out on loan was to get him playing and he is playing which is good.

Valverde on Neymar to Real Madrid

Who knows what can happen in football. But if there’s a world where strange things can happen, it’s the football world. But that’s not something I’m worried about. I’ve enough to worry about here at Barca.