By Jack Tarrant
KOBE (Reuters) – Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is confident new signing Antoine Griezmann will have no problems linking up with strike partners Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez when the trio finally appear in the same team together.
Griezmann, who signed from La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid earlier this month, has been with the squad on Barcelona’s tour of Japan and featured in the side’s 2-0 win over Vissel Kobe on Saturday.
However, following their exploits in the Copa America, Messi and Suarez have been given an extended break and will not link up with the team until they return from Japan.
With 682 La Liga goals between them, Valverde is understandably excited about the attacking trident and believes Griezmann might be the missing part of the puzzle as Barcelona chase their first Champions League trophy since 2015.
“It’s true that some players who are good fit in together easier,” said Valverde.
“We will see the relationship socially and at the camp. We are excited for this opportunity.
“We believe in balance in the team, in front or in the back, he (Griezmann) moves quick, he passes well, and finds space and this is what we were missing.”
Two second-half goals from 21-year-old academy graduate Carles Perez were enough to seal the win over Kobe, who featured former Barca players Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper on Saturday.
“Carles Perez scored two goals today, so it’s a good news for his potential and shows how we can bring the young guys forward,” Valverde said.
Former Barca captain Iniesta, who left the club after 16 trophy-filled years last year, said it was an odd afternoon playing against former team mates such as Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic.
“Well, it’s a bit strange of course (to play against Barcelona),” said the 35-year-old.
“You spend so long playing with the same players… it’s strange, special.
“But at the start of the match you are clearly focusing on playing and trying to give a good impression.”
Barcelona’s next pre-season match is against Arsenal at the Nou Camp on Aug. 7.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Christian Radnedge)