Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde has claimed Barcelona’s poor form will not represent an advantage ahead of his side’s visit to the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Barca have been dumped out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, lost to Granada in La Liga and lost the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid, but Valverde, whose side are battling to secure fourth place, is wary of a backlash from the Catalan side.
He is reported by AS as telling his prematch news conference: “I do not know if it is better or worse for us, but this week now La Liga is the only trophy Barca can win. The game is difficult, even if they have lost out on two trophies in a week.
“Maybe now they feel more pressure to break the bad run after losing three consecutive games, something they are not used to. But for us it is just as difficult.”
Valverde also remains wary of Lionel Messi, whose contribution has been questioned after failing to score or inspire Barca during their loss of form.
“[Messi’s form] does not affect us,” he said. “We are only interested in him not being very involved against us. He is asked to pull a rabbit out of his hat in every game, while being the player who is most marked of everyone.
“Maybe now he is not the same form as before, but he can tip a game in any instant. If he is so bad then I would not mind if he does not play.”
Valverde has inspired Bilbao to challenge for Champions League qualification this season, leading to reports that he could be considered to replace Gerardo Martino in the summer.
However, the former Barca striker dismissed the idea, saying: “No, of course not. The answer is no.”