Ernesto Valverde has warned his Barcelona team to take nothing for granted when they travel to face LaLiga’s bottom club Malaga on Saturday.
Victory at La Rosaleda over a team without a win in 12 games and seemingly already resigned to relegation will boost Barca’s title hopes further after their win over second-placed Atletico Madrid last week.
But Valverde harked back to his side’s battling 1-1 draw at another set of strugglers, Las Palmas, the previous week as evidence that not everything is certain at this stage of the season.
Valverde told a press conference: “This is a game we need to win, it is not a game for trying things out. I don’t think anyone should see the game that way, it would be a mistake.
“What happened to us against Las Palmas, when we couldn’t win, must serve as motivation.
“You have to rely on statistics and know that those teams who are near the bottom of the table (at this stage of the season) gather the most points.
“They will be playing at two hundred per cent, there will a good atmosphere and Malaga will make things very complicated for us.”
Despite his insistence on taking nothing for granted, Valverde is bound to make changes with one eye on the midweek Champions League return against Chelsea.
Gerard Pique could be in line for a rest as the club continues to manage the defender’s knee problem, while Philippe Coutinho, who is ineligible for this season’s European campaign, is a natural replacement for Andres Iniesta against Malaga.
This is a game we need to win, it is not a game for trying things out. I don't think anyone should see the game that way, it would be a mistake.Ernesto Valverde
Saturday could also provide a make-or-break opportunity for Ousmane Dembele, who is likely to be given another chance to boost his confidence levels against the bottom club.
Dembele has plainly struggled since his recovery from a serious hamstring injury and been the subject of questions concerning his off-field attitude.
But Valverde said: “Dembele is a player who likes to take on players and break into space. He has skill with both feet and a lot of virtues.
“He is 20 years old and there are things he still has to fine-tune over tune but we’re confident that with experience and time he will perfect those areas.”