Ernesto Valverde: 'El Clasico existed before Ronaldo, Messi'
Barca boss Valverde insists aura of the clash between Spain's fiercest rivals has not diminished despite absence of world's two greatest players in current era
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has warned his team to beware a wounded Real Madrid side as the hosts head into Sunday's Clasico at the Camp Nou without the injured Lionel Messi.
"We know what Madrid are like, they are more dangerous when they are wounded," said Valverde at a press conference on the eve of the game. His opposite number Julen Lopetegui is under enormous pressure ahead of the match, with Real having taken just one point from their last four games in La Liga. Madrid ended a five-match winless run in all competitions by beating Viktoria Plzen 2-1 in the Champions League in midweek, but that unconvincing performance may have only delayed the inevitable for Lopetegui.
Barcelona come into the game without Messi after he suffered a fractured arm against Sevilla last weekend. Valverde has not forgotten the promise Real showed when they took 13 points from a possible 15 to start the season.
"There were moments at the start of the season when Real were brilliant in possession and in terms of the pressure they put teams under," he warned. "They are now on a bad run, but they also have enough about them to overcome these things, just as we do with the absence of Messi."
The Spaniard insisted that the meeting of Spain's two fiercest rivals has not lost any of its aura without the two greatest players of the current era. "The Clasico existed before that.
The Clasico has always been the Clasico, and there were even flying piglets," he said, with a reference to a meeting of the sides in 2002, when Barcelona fans threw a pig's head at Luis Figo, their former idol who had crossed the divide to join Real in 2000. "There has always been tension." It will be the first Clasico without either Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo since 2007.
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