Barcelona's Ernesto Valverde doesn't fear Treble talk after win vs. Bilbao
BARCELONA -- Thoughts in Barcelona have turned towards an unbeaten league campaign after goals from Paco Alcacer and Lionel Messi earned a 2-0 win against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Alcacer and Messi were both on target inside the opening 30 minutes as Barca wrapped up the three points with an assured first-half display.
Ernesto Valverde's side are now unbeaten through 29 games in La Liga and are 11 points clear at the top following Atletico Madrid's loss at Villarreal.
"I would love to finish the season unbeaten [in the league]," Valverde said in his postgame news conference before urging caution.
"But we could lose our next game [away at Sevilla]. We have to wait and see what happens. The next game always difficult. We know that if we can keep going in the same manner, we will be even closer to our objectives."
Barca have lost just once in their last 45 games in all competitions -- the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Espanyol -- and Friday's Champions League draw against Roma has brought talk of a third treble in 10 years.
"I don't fear people asking us to win the Treble," Valverde added. "If they're talking about it, it's because there's a chance.
"But we're still a long way from that. I know how this works, the passion when you win can be the opposite when you lose or draw. For now, we're where we wanted to be at this stage of the season."
Led by Messi once again, Barca blew Athletic away with one of their best 45-minute showings of the season.
As well as scoring two goals, Philippe Coutinho hit the bar twice and Paulinho hit the post as the Blaugrana took their woodwork tally for the season to 38 in all competitions.
Messi's goal, a fierce drive from the edge of the area, was his 25th in La Liga this season, a mark he has now hit in each of the past nine campaigns.
"I hope that he can keep showing me things every day," Valverde said when asked whether he is able to teach Messi anything new.
"Every day he discovers something different. He's aware what he has to do and what the team needs in each moment. Managers can learn from their players, too, and I hope we can keep learning together."
Barca are now without a game for two weeks due to the international break, but they have a tough schedule when they return to action, with a trip to Sevilla later this month.
In April, they have two games against Roma, the Copa del Rey final and a potential Champions League semifinal, as well as a number of league games.
"The players can disconnect now and when they come back we have a fundamental month for our aspirations," Valverde said. "April will be a key month."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.