Bilbao vs Barcelona - Valverde determined political turmoil will not cause distraction

Posted Saturday, October 28, 2017 by PA

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is determined not to let the ongoing political turmoil in Catalonia detract him from the task at hand as he returns to former club Athletic Bilbao this weekend.

With Catalonia seeking independence from Spain, speculation has been rife about what that might mean for the Blaugrana in the future - including whether the 24-time Spanish champions will still be competing in LaLiga.

However, Valverde insists he is only looking at on-field matters as he attempts to improve on a miserable personal record as a visitor to San Mames.

When asked if he could imagine LaLiga without Barcelona, he told a press conference: "That hasn't happened and we're talking about hypothetical situations.

"The reality is that we have a league game and we will try to win it.

"It's impossible to stay informed about the political situation. Yesterday was a busy day, as is today and it's not over. We're focusing on ourselves. My responsibility is that my team wins."

If Valverde manages to achieve that on Saturday, it would be the first time in seven attempts as a visiting player or coach that he will have returned from San Mames with victory.

He enjoyed plenty of success at the ground while on Athletic's books, though, and knows full well what Barcelona can expect to face this weekend.

"The statistics aren't really in my favour, but I will try to change them," said the 53-year-old, who spent four years in charge of Athletic before taking over at Barca this summer and also represented the Lions as a player.

"They are a very strong team at San Mames. Not only now but in years gone by.

"We have to be ready to deal with the pressure. The fans really push the team on and never give up. They have a great spirit. That's not new.

"Obviously for me it's a special game. But now I'm a rival and I will try to make sure my team wins."

Barca head into the weekend boasting a four-point lead at the top of LaLiga after an unbeaten start which has brought eight wins from nine games.

Athletic, meanwhile, have struggled for consistency under Valverde's successor Jose Angel Ziganda and lie 11th with 11 points.

They beat Sevilla 1-0 in their last home match but that is the Basque club's only victory in their last 10 games in all competitions - although seven of those matches were away from home.

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