Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes says Sunday’s 7-0 win over Levante was due to new coach Gerardo Martino’s insistence on a return to more intense pressing of opponents in possession.
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The win was the biggest ever on an opening weekend in La Liga history, and the performance showed a hunger that had appeared to be been missing towards the end of the 2012-13 campaign.
Valdes said at Monday’s post-training press conference that such a stirring victory showed Barcelona were already taking Martino’s suggested improvements on board.
"It was one of the best season starts that I can remember," he said. "I saw the team very intense, defending much further up the field, allowing us to recover the ball earlier and with the chance to counter. That is what the coach wanted -- that we score goals on the break.
"Pressing is one of the secrets of this team in these last years. It is vital for us, for our play. I hope the 7-0 works as a warning to our rivals."
However, Valdes said that comments from team-mate Xavi Hernandez after the Levante game -- which suggested the team had stopped working on tactics when former coach Tito Vilanova was absent through illness last season -- had been overblown in the Spanish media.
"I spoke with Xavi, and his words were misunderstood," he said. "He wanted to say that with Tito’s illness we were not able to work on some aspects as we should have. It is not that we did not work on them, but we did not do it as much as we should have. It was not a typical situation."
Martino’s decision to change how Barca defended set-pieces towards a more 'man-to-man' system was nevertheless welcomed by Valdes.
"The coach and his team said that they preferred man-marking and I was happy, because I also think that," he said. "We did zonal marking with Pep and Tito, and now it has changed. I like this system better -- each man has his own responsibility."
Valdes said he expected a tough test from Atletico Madrid in Wednesday’s Spanish Supercopa first leg at Atletico’s Estadio Vicente Calderon.
"Atletico are continuing on the same line from last year," Valdes said. "They are very motivated. They will be a very difficult opponent. It will be another test for this Barca."
Valdes, who also admitted his "surprise" that international colleague Iker Casillas remained on the bench during Real Madrid’s 2-1 victory over Real Betis, gave short shrift to a question about whether he might change his mind about leaving the club when his contract expires next June.
"That question sounds like a joke to me, I am going to pretend I did not hear you," he said. "You are showing a lack of respect. I have told Tata that I will give everything in training and in the games during this season."