Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

No rest for Lionel Messi as Barcelona target six more wins to retain La Liga title

Manager Ernesto Valverde is set to keep his star man involved as Barca continue to battle on multiple fronts

Barcelona's Lionel Messi is back in action on Tuesday. EPA
Barcelona's Lionel Messi is back in action on Tuesday. EPA

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has urged his side not to let up in their pursuit of the Primera Liga title as the defending champions take on Villarreal onTuesday.

Barca, who have won the past three successive Liga titles, are 10 points clear of second place Atletico Madrid, whom they host on Saturday, after travelling to 17th-placed Villarreal.

"There are nine games to go and if we win six, we are champions," Valverde told reporters Monday. "In the final games of the season the teams at the bottom always take a lot of points.

"We don't have to look further than the games this week: Celta, Huesca, Rayo, they're all going to do everything they can and we must be prepared for these type of games."

Villarreal sit one point clear of the relegation zone after throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Valverde said his team's priority is to win La Liga, rather than the Uefa Champions League, in which they face Manchester United in the first leg of the quarter-finals on April 10.

"Historically when Barca have won the Champions League, they've won La Liga too," he said.

"I know that's a competition which the fans love, the players and everyone, but the Champions League can betray you in any game, in 15 bad minutes.

"By contrast, in La Liga, you judge yourself from the first minute to the last of the season. It's our bread and butter, it's how you judge yourself each week."

With matches coming thick and fast, Valverde said "there's no suitable scenario for resting" star man Lionel Messi, who is expected to start against Villarreal.

"We attach great importance to this game," Valverde said of the Villarreal game before acknowledging that "many people have their sights on the Champions League and also the Atletico game."

"We'll see tomorrow about Leo," Valverde said of his 31-year-old forward who has 31 league goals so far this season.

"The three points tomorrow are worth the same as those against Atletico," Valverde said. "It is a perfect match to win. It does not escape me that our rivals are waiting for a slip to feed their hopes of catching us. We don't want give it any opportunities."

Valverde said he did not think renewed rumours that Antoine Griezmann was going to leave Atletico for Barcelona would not destabilise either club.

Griezmann had seemed on the verge of joining Barca last summer having been part of France's World Cup-winning campaign. However, the forward opted to sign a new long-term deal with Atletico.

"It's the usual stuff, we're used to it," said Valverde.

Updated: April 2, 2019 08:31 AM

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