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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Barca boss Valverde warns of Rayo threat as treble-chasers host LaLiga strugglers

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Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has warned his players that Saturday’s LaLiga opponents Rayo Vallecano will be no easy touch.

Relegation battlers Rayo will be bidding to halt a run of five straight league defeats when they travel to the Nou Camp, where league leaders Barca have lost only once this season.

Barca, on course for the treble, are on a high after back-to-back cup and league wins over arch-rivals Real Madrid, but Valverde insists Rayo will provide a tough challenge.

“The difficult thing is that any team in the first division can beat any other team,” Valverde told a press conference. “Three points in the league these days are tough to get in any situation.

“We’re coming towards the end of the season and this makes it even more so because there are less games to play and teams have to try and reach their objectives.

“They are fighting for the title, fighting relegation or fighting for a place in Europe.

“It’s true Rayo are in a tough spot at the moment but let’s not forget, towards the end of the season the teams at the bottom always pick up a lot of points and pull off surprises.”

Barca, seven points clear at the top of the table, reached their sixth straight Cope del Rey final at Real’s expense last week and returned to the Bernabeu three days later to secure three more league points.

Valverde’s side will bid to reach the last eight of the Champions League when they take on Lyon next Wednesday having drawn 0-0 in France in the first leg.

“With regards to next week, we’ve got the Champions League and a victory (against Rayo) would be good for us as well,” he added.

Rayo, second from bottom but just two points from safety, had won four and drawn one of their five games before their current losing run.

Manager Michel, appointed in February 2017 following the dismissal of Ruben Baraja, insisted he did not fear the sack.

“The important thing for me is to have the capacity to work and analyze my day to day,” he told a press conference.

“What is not in my hands I do not know – the club has not shown me that I am in difficulties.”

The 43-year-old, who spent a total of 17 years in three different spells as a player at Rayo, said he would rather be in charge of them than Barca.

“The Barca team is a team with world-class figures, but I prefer mine,” he added.

“They have champions yes, but they have to win in the league too. Nobody gives anything and we are going there to compete.”

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