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Valverde: Pique must keep his focus on football

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has warned Gerard Pique he must stay focused on football despite his other commitments this week.

Pique is heavily involved with the Davis Cup tennis event that is currently ongoing in Madrid but is still expected to play at Leganes on Saturday.

“It is true that Gerard has issues outside of football,” the manager said at a pre-match press conference.

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“But curiously it is said that football players do not do things outside football and then when they do… ”

“If he is focused he will play, if not I will play another. I see him as being focused.”

Valverde was wary of underestimating bottom-of-the-table Leganes, especially now the club are led by a new manager in Javier Aguirre.

“We are not to think that they are small enemies,” he said.

“It is true that Leganes are last but last year they beat us. We must focus on the three points and regain motivation.

Ernesto Valverde

Ernesto Valverde wants his players focused on football (Peter Byrne/PA)

“I don’t know what can change with the change of coach. I have the reference of the other teams that Aguirre has trained and I guess he will adapt to what he has.

“He has a high level of motivation. He will try to wake them up, push them.”

Aguirre says his squad “have a debt to people” as they prepare to host the league leaders.

The Mexican manager was appointed on November 4 after a luckless run saw the team slip to the foot of the table with only one LaLiga victory to their name.

Javier Aguirre

Javier Aguirre will take Leganes into action against Barcelona (Martin Rickett/PA)

Aguirre’s first fixture at the helm resulted in a 1-1 draw with fifth-placed Real Sociedad and another significant test awaits.

“The team trained very well, we’ll see if we can capture it on the field because we are gaining confidence,” Aguirre said at a pre-match press conference.

“I told the players to separate the final result. Let’s play football, let the people who come to support us go home happy. We have a debt to people.

“How many here would give a finger to play against them tomorrow, to play against (Lionel) Messi? I don’t know if a finger, but at least a nail. Millions of people will see it and if we win, people will know us.

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“It helps a lot that the team come out wanting to win the game, wanting to defend their colours and their shirt against their people.

“Generally, Barcelona take your ball and you have to know how to play well without it.

“The plan is not to make unnecessary fouls. Nor let them pass, but we must be intelligent. We will try to minimize Leo’s high probability of scoring goals.

“I want people to go home saying ‘I liked my Leganes, I liked what I saw’.”