Barca coach denies Anfield collapse a factor

Barcelona's Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde at the 2019 Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) final football match between Barcelona and Valencia on May 25, 2019.
Barcelona's Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde at the 2019 Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) final football match between Barcelona and Valencia on May 25, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

SEVILLE • Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has rejected the suggestion that their shock 2-1 defeat by Valencia in the King's Cup final was the result of lingering psychological scars from their Champions League humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

A month ago, things were going swimmingly for the Catalan giants. They had wrapped up the LaLiga title with three games to spare and there were genuine hopes of a first treble success since 2015.

But the Reds' remarkable four-goal turnaround in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final has soured their league triumph and that hangover extended to Sunday, with Barcelona blowing the chance to seal a ninth domestic double and their fifth consecutive Cup.

Admitting that his players "had been knocked off that (treble) path at the decisive moment", Valverde said: "We have lost, but not because of a psychological issue.

"It's different from the game (at Anfield) we played a fortnight ago, but we've lost again, that is reality, the feeling.

"We have not been able to fulfil our own expectations, we celebrated the league title, we thought we could make a treble.

"You're left with a bad feeling because we created that expectation and it has not been like that. We're here to win titles and not for anything else."

However, Valverde insisted he was still the best man for the job, claiming he still "felt good".

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu also backed Valverde, who has a year left on his deal, to see out his final season at the Nou Camp, saying: "He's the coach. This defeat is not the manager's fault.

"We had a lot of chances, but the ball wouldn't go in. Sometimes, you have all the shots, but what counts is scoring goals.

"I wouldn't say the season's been a failure, but it's not been excellent either. Each year, we want to get to the run-in with the best chance of winning everything and in the end, we've lost two games, Anfield and here, and missed out on two titles."

However, the home faithful are no longer buying their excuses, with the #ValverdeOut campaign trending on social media and fans calling for his immediate sacking.

Gerard Pique also conceded in the aftermath that "the other decisions aren't in our hands". The defender told Catalan daily Sport: "It's always a good year when you win LaLiga, but the expectation was to have an even better year and that's not been the case.

"The season ends with a bittersweet feeling, because it could have been better. We're not worrying about the manager's future, we all have to analyse ourselves and try and improve."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2019, with the headline 'Barca coach denies Anfield collapse a factor'. Print Edition | Subscribe