Valverde: Barca must learn from PSG, Real capitulations

Valverde said Barca needed to be extra careful after witnessing Real Madrid's 4-1 home defeat by Ajax Amsterdam and PSG's 3-1 reverse in Paris against Manchester United. ― Reuters pic
Valverde said Barca needed to be extra careful after witnessing Real Madrid's 4-1 home defeat by Ajax Amsterdam and PSG's 3-1 reverse in Paris against Manchester United. ― Reuters pic

BARCELONA, March 13 ― Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said they would be extra wary of Olympique Lyonnais in today's Champions League last-16 return after Real Madrid and Paris St Germain suffered shock exits following second-leg turnarounds.

The first leg in Lyon finished goalless and Barca must beat the French side at the Nou Camp to reach the quarter-finals of a competition in which they have underperformed since last lifting the trophy in 2015.

The Catalans are overwhelming favourites to win the game and have an outstanding home record in the Champions League, remaining unbeaten at the Nou Camp in the competition since losing to Bayern Munich in 2013.

But Valverde said Barca needed to be extra careful after witnessing Real Madrid's 4-1 home defeat by Ajax Amsterdam and PSG's 3-1 reverse in Paris against Manchester United.

“The fact that teams like Real Madrid and PSG have been knocked out is important and we will have to be wary of that in the game, and we are not underestimating Lyon,” Valverde told a news conference yesterday.

“They have their weapons, above all in attack and their fast forwards and I'm sure they'll try to make the most of that. They usually take the initiative in games, they know how important an away goal will be and they'll use that.”

Lyon, who are third in Ligue 1 but caused a surprise by beating Manchester City away from home in the Champions League group stage, have been boosted by the return of French forward Nabil Fekir who was suspended from the first leg.

Barca winger Ousmane Dembele picked up a hamstring strain in Saturday's 3-1 Liga win over Rayo Vallecano but Valverde named him in his squad yesterday.

“We will see how he is and make a decision later,” Valverde said. “It is an important match but we cannot take any risks.”

Barcelona have not lost a Champions League last-16 tie since going out to Liverpool in 2007 but have not gone beyond the quarter-finals since 2015.

Last year's elimination to AS Roma after winning the first leg 4-1 was particularly embarrassing.

“We aren't thinking about what happened last year, we're thinking about the games now and have studied the first leg,” Valverde said.

“We have seen the calibre of opponents by watching the other Champions League games and have seen that there are no small teams and a first leg advantage does not count for much. The score is level and if we want to go through we have to win.” ― Reuters

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