Barcelona boss rejects Klopp's comments

Barcelona boss rejects Klopp's comments

30/04/2019

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde thinks opposite number Jurgen Klopp's statements about the Camp Nou were meant to "cool the hype" ahead of their Champions League semifinal first leg on Wednesday.

The Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 99,000 yet it does not have the same reputation for noise or unconditional support as Liverpool's Anfield home.

And Liverpool coach Klopp said in an interview with broadcaster DAZN that his team should not be overwhelmed by playing at Barca's ground: "The Camp Nou is just a stadium. It is pretty big, but it is no temple of football."

However, Valverde backed the Barcelona supporters to turn up the volume in the game to help his side move towards a first Champions League final in four years.

"The fans at the Nou Camp have already played a decisive role this season. We've had over 90,000 fans at our last few games and we have felt the difference they made," Valverde told a news conference.

"We expect the same tomorrow, and we know our fans will give us that extra push, just like Liverpool will get at Anfield. I think Klopp said that to cool the hype about the game, because it's just another game."

Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic added: "We respect Klopp's opinion but playing in the Nou Camp is different, it's special. We don't care if it's seen as a temple or not. I'd love to be able to play at the Nou Camp every week."

Rakitic added that Lionel Messi's preseason speech continues to provide motivation for Barcelona, who lifted the La Liga title at the weekend and also have a Copa del Rey final against Valencia to come later this month as they target the Treble.

Speaking back in August, Messi pledged to supporters that Barca would do everything within their power to "bring that beautiful trophy back to Camp Nou" in reference to the Champions League.

Messi has since delivered on the pitch, scoring 10 goals in eight European appearances, including braces in the knockout round wins against Lyon and Manchester United, to help Barca set up the semifinal with Liverpool.

"Whenever our captain says something, the rest of us follow," Rakitic said. "We are right there with him. Seeing him lift the league trophy [on Saturday] with such happiness, that motivates everyone. If Leo is that happy to win every title, it makes us all even more eager.

"He has won 10 [league] titles in 15 years. If he is that happy to win, what does it say for the rest of us? We're Barcelona and we want to win everything and we want to follow the best player in the history of the game."

Barca's game against Liverpool is their first European semifinal since 2015 and they find themselves under increasing pressure to deliver in a competition which has been won by rivals Real Madrid in the last three seasons. But Rakitic said there's no added pressure because of Messi's comments.

"Messi's won four Champions Leagues so I don't think he's nervous," the midfielder added. "You have to understand that Leo leads from the front and we follow. We know what we have to do and we want to be in Madrid for the final. We've learned from recent years.

"We're not demanding [that we have to win the Champions League] but we would love to. Getting to this stage of the season in the position we are in gives us a lot of confidence -- I hope we can have the perfect season."

Valverde, who has a fully fit squad to select from with the exception of the injured Rafinha, is wary of the threat Liverpool pose. Sources revealed to ESPN FC that he has spent hours looking for the best way to counter their press and to nullify their front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

"It won't be enough to have one good game," Valverde told a news conference. "It has to be two good games and we cannot afford even 10 bad minutes because Liverpool are a side that can mow you down.

"They have extraordinary forwards, they press really well and they have a lot of pace. Klopp's taken his ideas from [Borussia] Dortmund and executed them at Liverpool. They've lost once in the league all season. That tells you a lot about them.

"We have to have an answer to that capacity they have to push you back towards your own goal. We will have to come through those moments and that pressure to do them damage."

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