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Ernesto Valverde talks Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti ahead of Athletic Bilbao

The latest from the Barcelona boss

FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - La Liga Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde has been talking to the press ahead of Sunday’s La Liga fixture against his former club Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.

The Barcelona boss talked about the fitness of Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti as well as talking about who could replace the suspended Jordi Alba.

Here at the best bits:

Valverde on Messi

We have to wait until training to make a decision. We didn’t want to take too many risks in the cup game and tomorrow is a similiar situation. We’ll see what decision we make, it depends what he says, how he feels. He’s ok, but if he was absolutely 100% then he would most certainly play and if not we’ll have to make a decision.

Valverde on Arthur’s absence

He’s a player who controls our midfield. Injuries always take you by surprise. There was also a period back in November when he didn’t play. We have other options like Alena, who’s perhaps more attack-minded, also Vidal, he’s also attack-minded, rather than controlling the game. Coutinho is another possibility or someone from the B team. So we’ll see what kind of game we have ahead of us and choose the player depending on that.

Valverde on Dembele and Umtiti

Umtiti joined in the first part of training yesterday nothing more than that. The idea is for him to gradually rejoin the team. Dembele did the full training session yesterday. It’s a different short-term injury. Today we’ll make the final decision on whether he can play tomorrow.

Valverde on replacing Alba

Covering for a player like Alba is always difficult but we do have other options. We could move a right-back to left-back, play a left-footed centre-back or play one of the B team players.

Valverde on if he wants to stay at Barcelona next season

When I have an answer, I will announce it.

Valverde on rotation

We’ve got a rest week next week. Tomorrow is a fundamental match for us. What you can’t do is play players who aren’t fully fit because you risk more serious injury. Look at Arthur for example, we don’t want to lose players so have to be careful. Tomorrow I plan to play my best team.

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