Valverde defends Piqué over Espanyol comments
Gerard Piqué's controversial comments about Catalan rivals Espanyol were intended as a joke, says coach Ernesto Valverde.
Ernesto Valverde defended Barcelona centre-back Gerard Piqué after he made headlines with comments about Espanyol ahead of the derby.
Ahead of Saturday's meeting at Camp Nou, Piqué told Movistar+ show 'La Resistencia': "I have more money than the budget of Espanyol this year. Nope, not just €57million, it's plenty more than that."
Piqué has a history of winding up Espanyol when Barça face their Catalan rivals but Valverde brushed off the defender's latest comments.
"I haven't seen it, but it's inevitable to hear about it," Valverde said at a news conference. There isn't a lot to comment about, he was on a comedy show, about humour, so it was a bit more light-hearted and that's okay. "We have a very serious game tomorrow. In this press conference I prefer to focus on serious stuff as there is a lot at stake."
After Espanyol, the defending champions go to Villarreal on Tuesday before hosting nearest title rivals Atlético Madrid.
"We're bearing in mind it is a derby, very demanding for both teams," Valverde added. "And we have in mind after the break it is the decisive part of the season.There are no more breaks until June and in the next week we have nine points at stake, very complicated games and a very hard week. With few games remaining after this, every possible victory has a lot at stake, a little more than a few months ago.
"Our objective is to win the game, but we know how hard it will be, in a derby the difference between the sides gets closer due to the occasion. We have to make changes in every game, bearing in mind the busy schedule ahead. But we have to see day by day the state of things in the squad with the minutes the players experience.
"We don't know if a player is a little hurt in a game and you have to make a change. We have a lot of games, one in three games then Atlético - key games and we will try to get all nine points."
Espanyol lost at home to Sevilla before the international break but that 1-0 defeat ended a six-game unbeaten run that has seen Rubi's side move up the league table.
"We're expecting a team like their best point of the season, very motivated just like we will be for a derby," Valverde continued. These games motivate them, and us too. They had a great start, then a big dip in form, but they're bouncing back at the moment.
"They're further away from the relegation zone and will be fighting to climb the table and maybe get into Europe. It's all about good results."