Barcelona's Andre Gomes 'very brave' to address struggles - Ernesto Valverde
BARCELONA -- Ernesto Valverde has praised Andre Gomes' bravery for speaking out about his struggles at Barcelona and has insisted the midfielder is ready to face Chelsea on Wednesday if called upon.
Gomes, 24, has been the subject of criticism from Barca supporters since joining the club from Valencia in 2016, and he told Panenka this week that his life in Catalonia has developed into "a kind of hell."
Home fans again jeered Gomes during the win over Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou on March 4 and the Portugal international said there have been times when he has not wanted to leave the house after a poor performance.
"It was very brave for Andre to admit how he was feeling, especially in such a public manner," Valverde said at a news conference on Tuesday. "As people in the football world, we are often careful not to reveal our insecurities or weaknesses, so it was a very brave act.
"But it's nothing new and he is not the only one. It's something which has happened to most of us. It's something you have to face and overcome. It's about pushing forward."
Gomes, a €35 million signing with another €20m in potential add-ons, has made 25 appearances for Barca this season, although 15 of them have been as a substitute.
Valverde said Gomes is able to start in the Champions League against Chelsea this week if selected with Philippe Coutinho cup-tied and a late decision to be made over Andres Iniesta's fitness.
"Of course he is," Valverde said when asked if Gomes is ready for selection. "It's a question of moving forward. He has a lot of good qualities, so maybe it will be the day he gives us his best [performance].
"I know my players. I have spoken with Andre many times about many things. A coach is always there to help the players in every sense. The first thing a coach must do is help his team, to have all players at 100 percent. We are here to help and we are going to help."
Sergio Busquets also said the Barca players have done everything possible to help Gomes through a difficult period.
"We knew a little bit about his situation, but I didn't know to what extent because it's a very personal issue," Busquets said.
"As colleagues we always try to help him, to be alongside him, to give him advice, but he's the one going through this, the one that takes it home with him. We have done as much as possible to help him."
Barca and Chelsea played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg last week, so qualification to the quarterfinal is very much up for grabs at Camp Nou on Wednesday. A goalless draw would see the La Liga leaders progress on away goals but Busquets said they will not sit back.
"It will be a hard match. They always are in the Champions League," Busquets said. "We're playing against a good team, especially in defence. We know it won't be easy but we will try to make the most of our chances. A goalless draw could be a good result, but we won't sit and wait. We will look to take initiative."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.