BARCELONA – FC Barcelona’s coach Ernesto Valverde warned on Saturday that Real Betis would not be an easy opponent in their upcoming La Liga match, while he defended his decision to exclude forward Ousmane Dembele from the squad.
La Liga defending champion Barça, which leads the Spanish league standings with 24 points, is set to host 14th-placed Betis on Sunday.
“It’s an important game against a team that tries to keep you from playing your game,” the Spanish coach said at a press conference.
“We both want to control possession,” Valverde added.
The coach justified his decision to leave Dembele out of the squad, insisting that he tries to do the best for his team and club.
Valverde pointed out that sometimes some players are called up, while sometimes others are excluded from the squad and the absence of Dembele was not a punishment.
Dembele was absent from training on Thursday, while the forward exercised apart from the group on Friday.
Although the coach stressed that Dembele has “incredible talent” and is “a great player,” Valverde did not want to give details about this absence because it was “an internal issue.”
Valverde said he was delighted with the return of both Lionel Messi and Samuel Umtiti, who got his medical discharge on Saturday after missing several matches in the La Liga and the UEFA Champions League due to injury.