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Valverde rejects suggestions he spared players ahead of El Clasico

Barcelona could only manage a 2-2 draw away to Real Sociedad.

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde rejected suggestions he tried to spare players ahead of facing Real Madrid (John Walton/PA)
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde rejected suggestions he tried to spare players ahead of facing Real Madrid (John Walton/PA)

By PA Sport Staff

Ernesto Valverde has rejected suggestions he tried to spare players during Barcelona’s 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad because of Wednesday’s El Clasico against Real Madrid.

The reigning La Liga champions saw their six-game winning streak ended by fourth-placed Sociedad, who took an early lead through Mikel Oyarzabal’s penalty.

Antoine Griezmann provided an equaliser against his former club before Luis Suarez gave Barca the lead, but Alexander Isak levelled for the hosts.

Valverde replaced Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Ivan Rakitic in the second half, but insisted the changes were not made to rest the players before the Real Madrid clash.

“What do you think?” he said when asked the question in a post-match press conference.

“We are dying here on the bench and we’re going to think about the Clasico? You think about what you have in front of you.”

The 55-year-old acknowledged the disadvantages of facing Sociedad at their own ground but still felt his side could have secured the victory.

He said: “The game had everything. The two teams had chances to take the three points.

“It (playing away from home) cost us, but it costs anyone. I don’t see any team that just walks away at home.

“We had a great team in front of us that is having a great season. The game was very intense in every way.”

Sociedad’s early penalty was the result of midfielder Busquets grabbing hold of the shirt of Diego Llorente, but Gerard Pique was denied a penalty when he was fouled in a similar manner.

“From the bench you see the game with the shirt of your team on,” Valverde said of the referee’s decision.

“The penalty to Pique? I have not seen it repeated but I will say that it is a penalty and that the Busquets one was not. I guess the coach of la Real will say the opposite.”

Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil described the game as “a champion’s game with champion’s fans”.

Speaking at a post-match press conference, the 48-year-old felt his side deserved to take three points from the encounter.

“I think we have done a little more than Barca to have won,” he said.

“Barcelona are good, although we are too. My fear was to lose that character but it has been a very good game for players and fans.

“A champion’s match,” he repeated.

“I am happy and sad at the same time. They did something, although not much more than us, to take the win.”

PA

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