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Ernesto Valverde must drop his ‘safety first’ approach now

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No reason not to rest players

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Whatever cules think of Ernesto Valverde, his Barcelona record stands up to scrutiny.

Forget the two Clasicos just past or the way in which the coach has steered the Blaugrana to two consecutive Copa del Rey finals.

The barometer of how good a team is will always be measured by their success in the league.

In over 18 months, the Catalans have lost three league games. THREE. Just one more than Real Madrid have lost in the last three weeks.

His teams might not play the greatest football that the Camp Nou going public have ever seen, but he gets results.

The one performance he’s yet to be forgiven for is of course last season’s Champions League quarter-final second leg debacle against Roma.

In the aftermath of what was Barca’s most surprising result of the campaign, the criticism was vitriolic and sustained. And still is.

Though the vast majority of players remained quiet, Luis Suarez did acknowledge that he was too tired and should’ve perhaps been rested in the games leading up to what was, at that point, Barcelona’s most important game of the season - even with a three goal cushion.

Fast forward almost 12 months, and Valverde finds his side in a similar position to 2017/18.

Well ahead in the league, and into another cup final, focus can now very definitely turn to the Champions League again.

To that end, Lyon loom large on the horizon. The French side are no mugs, as was seen in the first leg, and with Nabil Fekir returning, their attacking intensity will be multiplied.

They will present a threat throughout the 90 minutes, as Manchester City can attest to, and to that end, Valverde needs all of his main men fit and firing if they want to progress.

Rayo Vallecano are next up in the league, and whilst they’ll be no pushovers, Barca should have enough about them to take the three points.

What’s imperative now is that Valverde drops the safety first approach and allows the likes of Messi, Pique, Busquets, Rakitic and others to get the rest and recuperation they need when the fixture list allows.

By all means have one or two on the bench if needed, but I can’t think of any logical reason why the coach wouldn’t start to rotate now, and give the team a genuine chance of another European trophy.

With so many others - Kevin-Prince Boateng, Carles Alena, Malcom and more - crying out for game time, Valverde can kill two birds with one stone and perhaps begin to atone for his error last season in the process.