BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde urged his side not to take their foot off the pedal when they host struggling Rayo Vallecano on Saturday in La Liga in their first game since pulling off back to back wins at Real Madrid.
Barca have won their last 11 fixtures with Rayo while scoring 50 goals against them, and despite having a seven-point lead at the top of the standings over nearest challengers Atletico Madrid, Valverde has warned against complacency.
“Easing off after the Clasicos would be the first step towards not winning,” Valverde told a news conference on Friday.
“There are some games everyone focuses on and others people take less seriously, and those games can win or lose you the title. Tomorrow’s game is one of them.
“As the season reaches its climax every game is tougher. There are fewer games left and as teams set their targets tension starts to build up.”
Barca have a crucial Champions League last-16 decider against Olympique Lyonnais four days after facing Rayo, with the tie finely balanced after a goalless draw in France.
While Real Madrid have often prepared for Champions League knockout games by making sweeping changes to their starting line-ups in league games, Valverde said he would not do the same, but was open to resting one or two of his usual starters.
“The three points available tomorrow are worth the same as the ones we won at Sevilla and Real Madrid. Looking ahead to the Champions League game, it would be good to be lifted by a victory before then,” he said.
“It’s possible that there will be some changes, we’ll see tomorrow. We have had a free week without games and we have four games after. If it was three days later, it would be more difficult, but perhaps we’ll be careful with one player or two.”
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Mark Potter)