Ernesto Valverde says Barcelona will cope with a busy February fixture list after Friday’s Copa del Rey semi-final draw handed the holders a two-legged tie against Real Madrid.
Barca have won the tournament four years in a row but will have to knock out their rivals to reach the final again after Real Betis and Valencia were paired together in the other semi-final.
Valverde’s men also play the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie against Lyon this month, while they start March with a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu in LaLiga immediately following the second leg of the Copa clash at the same venue.
Saturday’s visit of Valencia to Camp Nou is the first of seven matches Barca will play in February, yet Valverde is not concerned about the impending fixture pile-up as they continue to compete on multiple fronts.
“A huge game, two big games,” Valverde told reporters on Friday when asked for his reaction to the draw. “It’s a time we are both involved in a battle for the top spot in the league, the Champions League starts again in a few weeks, so that adds to the mix with two huge cup games thrown in there too.
“It’s quite a heavy, intense load of games but it’s very attractive for the fans and for ourselves. It should be a great semi-final, let’s see if we can qualify for the final.
“I think it’s tight and I don’t know, it’s ridiculous to talk about percentages. It’ll be a tight semi-final and they did have a bit of a lull in the league but they seem over it, playing confident football and getting better results too.
“Valencia tomorrow are at the peak of their form and Madrid are the same. I don’t want to say everything as next Tuesday there will be point giving a press conference as I will have said everything today.
“Of course we are confident we can deal with it [the fixture list], we offer a full guarantee but don’t know what setbacks may happen tomorrow or even in training.
“The weeks are building up and we have three games in six days, then three days in eight days, then after Athletic Bilbao [on February 10] a free week that will be a big help. So we’ll try to organise the rest time as well as our playing time and hope we do not suffer any injuries.
“I’m honest and I will tell you just after the Sevilla game, Madrid we knew would be a possibility, a one in three chance to get them or Betis or Valencia. We knew it would be a heavy fixture list. Madrid games have a special connotation but nothing was ever going to be easy.”
Atletico were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Girona before the quarter-final stage, clearing their fixture list compared to Barca, but Valverde says he would not trade places with Diego Simeone.
“Ask them – they’ll answer that,” he said. “I’m quite happy where I am right now, thank you.
“We’ll put out the best team we can to win [against Valencia]. We’ll look at how the players are in training later today.
“Let’s not deny the league is always our priority, our priority is to win every game but we cannot afford any slip-ups so we need to play our strongest team in all the games.”
Valverde confirmed the Valencia game comes too soon for Ousmane Dembele and he is unsure if the winger will be available for Wednesday’s first leg against Madrid.