Champions League

Barca to make late Dembele call for Lyon, says Valverde

2019-03-12 19:25
Ousmane Dembele (AP)

Barcelona - Barcelona will make a late decision on the fitness of Ousmane Dembele ahead of their Champions League second leg against Lyon, coach Ernesto Valverde said on Tuesday. 

Dembele sustained a minor hamstring strain against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday and is a doubt for the game at the Camp Nou, where Lyon arrive after a 0-0 draw in the first leg. 

"We will see how he is and make a decision later," Valverde said. 

"It is an important match but we cannot take any risks. If he isn't fit, he will have to wait for the next opportunity," he added. 

Dembele's absence could mean a start for Philippe Coutinho, who has struggled in recent weeks and was whistled off by a minority of Barcelona fans when substituted last weekend. 

Signed from Liverpool just over a year ago, Coutinho has started 16 of Barcelona's 27 La Liga games this season. 

Asked if he had spoken to the Brazilian about his form, Valverde said: "The way we handle the players is a private matter. What we want is for them to give us their best and we expect a lot from him." 

The pressure is on Coutinho, and Barca, to deliver against Lyon on Wednesday as they aim to make amends for a disappointing run of three consecutive quarter-final exits in the Champions League. 

"The fact that Paris Saint-Germain and Madrid have been eliminated tells you how hard the competition is and warns us to be vigilant," Valverde said. 

"The pressure is on to progress but we focus on the game and if we generate the same chances as we did in the first leg, we will go through." 

Madrid sacked Santiago Solari and re-appointed Zinedine Zidane as coach on Monday after they lost to Ajax in the last 16, a defeat that came after consecutive losses to Barcelona. 

"He's a great coach," Valverde said of Zidane. "We look forward to facing him next season." 


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