Valverde accepts blame for Barca draw

Valverde accepts blame for Barca draw

Ernesto Valverde. REUTERS

Ernesto Valverde admitted his gamble to rest Lionel Messi backfired on Saturday as Barcelona drew 1-1 at home to Athletic Bilbao to make it three games without a victory.

Messi came on in the 55th minute at the Camp Nou and it was the Argentinian's shot that was turned in by another substitute, Munir El Haddadi, with six minutes left to play.

By then, however, Oscar de Marcos had given Bilbao a deserved first-half lead and despite a late rally, Messi and Barca could not find a winner.

After drawing at home to Girona and being beaten by Leganes, Barca will head to Wembley to face Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday short of rhythm and lacking confidence.

They will also be without Sergi Roberto. Barcelona confirmed after the game he had picked up a thigh strain.

The last time Bilbao took a point at the Camp Nou, Valverde was sitting in the away team's dug-out, in 2004, during his first spell as Bilbao coach.

Now in charge at Barca, he will have questions to answer, having made the bold decision to rest Messi with Spurs in mind, along with Sergio Busquets.

"Leaving Messi on the bench is absolutely my responsibility," Valverde said. "He has four games in 10 days and I think it's good for Leo to rest, like Busquets, thinking of the Champions League.

"I know it was the right decision. It was a risk and on this occasion, it didn't come off." Lack of rotation was chief among the criticisms levelled at Valverde after they crashed out of the Champions League quarterfinals last season, with Luis Suarez admitting he regrets playing 90 minutes against Leganes, three days before the collapse against Roma.

Valverde has certainly acted. Of the preferred 11 that started a 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven two weeks ago, eight have started at least one of the three games since on the bench. The trouble is that seven of those have been required to come on as substitutes.

"We can't expect Messi just to come on and fix things," Suarez said.

"We should have won the game before he came on, that's why we are Barca."


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