Stern warning from Valverde: Barca have a lot of rowing to be done in title race

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde believes there is still “a lot of rowing to be done” before his side can contemplate being crowned LaLiga champions.

The Blaugrana cemented their 10-point lead at the top of the table with a 2-0 home win over city rivals Espanyol on Saturday.

Valverde’s side face relegation battlers Villarreal on Tuesday night in the next step of what is viewed as a procession towards the title and a potential domestic double.

Champions League ambitions are also still very much alive heading into a quarter-final showdown against Manchester United, as Barcelona look to close in on a memorable end to the campaign.

Valverde, though, is not about to allow anyone to get ahead of themselves.

“There are nine games left in LaLiga. If we win six, we are champions – but there is a lot of rowing to be done before that,” the Barca boss said at a press conference broadcast by the club.

“It’s not extra pressure, it’s a pressure we have because we want to get the title, just like the teams that chase us, the numbers are what they are.”

Valverde continued: “The three titles are equally close and far away, everything depends on small things, and we have not won yet, everything is yet to be decided.

“Since we started (the season), we have come a long way, (now) we are at the culminating moment.

“The players know, as I do, the difficulties that there are to win. They have lived this before, things are not certified until they are achieved.”

Despite Villarreal’s struggles at the wrong end of the table, Valverde will not take their challenge lightly.

He said: “Villarreal have played well against difficult opponents, they’re never an easy team to beat.

“In each match left, it is a kind of final for all, for us to be champions and them to get away from the bottom.”

Valverde hinted against making major changes, although admitted Lionel Messi, whose double on Saturday saw him surpass 40 goals in a season once again, could be given a breather.

“We have 10 days between now and our Champions League game (at Manchester United). It is not a case of wrapping the players up and protecting them. We need to keep competing at our consistent level,” he said.

“There is never a suitable scenario to rest a player like Leo, but we will see it tomorrow.”

Villarreal had been on a fine run in both the Europa League and domestically, with back-to-back wins boosting their survival bid before they lost 3-2 at Celta Vigo having been 2-0 up at half-time.

Javi Calleja wants his men to lift themselves once again.

“On Tuesday, we have a new match against Barcelona. We cannot throw away everything which we have achieved,” he said, quoted on the club website. “We have to go out and win against the leaders.”

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