BetKing Preview: Liverpool vs Barcelona: Blaugrana to come out undefeated
That suggests he will pick a competitive team in Vitoria, although with a couple of changes to the side which beat Real Sociedad, as he recognised himself. His place in the squad's been taken by Thomas Vermaelen, who has been given the green light to return to action following fitness issues. Nelson Semedo and Ousmane Dembele, along with Rakitic, may drop out. The Brazilian needs a good game following criticism for his celebration against Manchester United, which saw him whistled by some supporters when he came on at the weekend.
Valverde will resist the urge to make wholesale changes on Tuesday
In Vitoria, he will have the chance to get fans back on side. There are eight days before the Liverpool game. That's time to keep players fresh for the Champions League without losing focus on La Liga. They say the title's already won but the coaching staff don't want surprises.
They will not speculate. They want things sealed so they can focus on Europe.
With nine points over Atletico, Valverde could rest more players, but everything suggests that's more likely on Saturday, against Levante, than against Alaves. Levante will be the final game before Liverpool come to Camp Nou. It's the ideal situation to face Liverpool, with La Liga won and no domestic distractions.
Valvderde is constantly subjected to stick by a certain element of the Blaugrana fanbase for his decisions? Marcus Rashford was able to surge into the home area with alarming ease almost from kick-off, only to shoot and hit the bar.
Eventually the German had to intervene, shaking his head, and hoofing the ball out to the left flank. Faced with a better opponent than United however, a similar gifting of good chances and lack of defensive assertiveness would surely be punished. The Catalans found out in the quarter-finals against Roma last year that big errors are rarely forgiven at this level. Valverde will hope they finally learned their lesson tonight. This is not a Barcelona team on par with the years that made the world fall in love with them.
Nor is it one on par with the brief but brilliant Luis Enrique team led by a record-shattering forward line. Sure enough, by the end of the night it would prove difficult to find new ways to describe his brilliance. First was the opener, sparked by some excellent pressure from Ivan Rakitic.
FC Barcelona - Wikipedia
The subsequent run showed shades of the Messi who used to start on the right flank and cut inside during his early years. Half a second of hesitation from Young was all it took for the number 10 to spring away, already thinking of his next move by the time the United man had realised who skipped past him. The finish, curled perfectly away from David de Gea, was impossible to get to, capping off a goal that was the perfect combination of speed of thought, artistry, and calculated, clinically accurate end product.