Ernesto Valverde said he has no preference over where and when Barcelona are confirmed as LaLiga champions.

A 2-0 win at Deportivo Alaves moved Barca within three points of defending their title, but they will be crowned on Wednesday should nearest rivals Atletico Madrid lose at home to Valencia.

If Atleti make Barca wait, the Catalan giants can make certain of their eighth title in the last 11 seasons at home to Levante on Saturday, before next week's Champions League semi-final clash with Liverpool.

Valverde rested captain Lionel Messi against Alaves, with second-half goals from Carles Alena and Luis Suarez seeing his side through to a comfortable victory at Mendizorroza.

Barca would be able to celebrate clinching the title in front of their own fans should Atletico postpone what is increasingly inevitable, but Valverde has no preference over when his second successive title is confirmed.

"The truth is that there are three final points [to make mathematically sure], but they are very important," Valverde told reporters. "Things have to be concretised and we have been chasing them for a long time.

"Atletico are a competitor who show every day how they do it. We'll see. I do not see Atletico relaxing. We count on that we will need the three points.

"What we want is to win because winning LaLiga is difficult and we will see when it can be. It leaves us on the verge of getting it, three points with four games to play.

"Whatever it has to be, it will be. If, when we start the season, they ask me, any coach would have answered any time."

Barca found it hard to break Alaves down initially, but after Alena's opener was created by Sergi Roberto a VAR-assisted penalty allowed Suarez to double their lead.

"In the end they defended well, defended together," Valverde added. "We had a double chance at the beginning but we did not take advantage and it was a matter of patience. With the 0-1 they have already had to open up."

Valverde brought on Messi at 2-0 and he denied the move was motivated by giving Messi the chance to score more goals in a bid for another individual award.

"The idea was that he'd play because the result wasn't clear when it was goalless at half-time," he said. "The suggestion that it was about the Golden Shoe... well, we focus on winning.

"It was time for him to get some rest today and to come out in the second half. It's good for players to stay involved and active.

"You can't put them away in a case and then just bring them out for one match."

Carles Alena and Luis Suarez scored as Barcelona took another big step towards defending their LaLiga title with a 2-0 win at Deportivo Alaves.

Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba were among the stars named on the bench by Ernesto Valverde, who rested Ivan Rakitic entirely, but Barca eased to victory at Mendizorroza on Tuesday.

Alena and Suarez struck within the space of six second-half minutes to boost Barca ahead of their Champions League semi-final clash with Liverpool next week.

The Catalan giants will be confirmed as LaLiga champions for the eighth time in 11 seasons should nearest rivals Atletico Madrid lose at home to Valencia on Wednesday.

Suarez and Philippe Coutinho saw early efforts blocked and the striker then saw his shot kept out by the legs of goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco after he was fed by Ousmane Dembele.

Arturo Vidal headed Dembele's right-wing cross over with Gerard Pique seemingly in a better position behind him as Barca sought the breakthrough.

Barca had created few chances in Messi's absence but they took the lead in the 54th minute.

Sergi Roberto, who switched from left-back to right-back at half-time, set up Alena with a clever pass and he beat Pacheco with a placed left-footed finish.

It was soon 2-0 in bizarre circumstances, Pique having a goal ruled out for offside as a VAR review instead led to a penalty for a handball by Tomas Pina.

Pacheco chose correctly in diving to his left but Suarez's penalty beat him for pace, and despite Barca taking a two-goal advantage Valverde sent Messi on for Dembele.

Messi and Vidal failed to add to the scoreline in the closing stages but the champagne can go on ice with the title virtually secured.


What does it mean? Barca close in on possible treble

It is fair to say Barca have not always been at their fluent best this season, but their consistency has to be admired. Since Valverde took charge in 2017 they have only lost three times in LaLiga. 

Atletico and Real Madrid have failed to muster a genuine challenge this term, but Barca will not mind as they have been able to rest players including Messi for the Champions League.

Valverde has continually dismissed suggestions the treble is on but with Barca already into the Copa del Rey final they have a serious chance of repeating the feat achieved under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique.


Alena seizes his chance

One of the criticisms of Valverde has been his perceived failure to blood young talent, but Alena made his fifth LaLiga start in Vitoria.

The 21-year-old will surely get more minutes in the league with the title all but assured and four games still to play.


Pina the fall guy

Alaves competed but Pina conceding a penalty gave Barca the chance they needed to secure all three points. He may have thought he had got away with a handball before VAR intervened.


What's next?

Barca are at home to Levante on Saturday, the same day Alaves go to Athletic Bilbao, but Valverde's attentions may now turn to Liverpool as the treble becomes more realistic.

Lionel Messi is on the bench for Barcelona's LaLiga game away to Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday.

Barcelona will be crowned champions this week if they beat Alaves and nearest LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid lose at home to Valencia on Wednesday.

But they will have to face Alaves without their captain as Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have been selected as support for striker Luis Suarez in Messi's absence.

Carles Alena is also in the Barcelona side, making his fifth LaLiga start of the season, with Arturo Vidal in midfield and Arthur alongside Messi and Jordi Alba on the bench.

Samuel Umtiti starts alongside Gerard Pique at the back, with Ivan Rakitic the main absentee for Barca. Sergi Roberto is expected to fill in at left-back.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde will be patient with Ousmane Dembele as the winger looks to rediscover his form following a month out injured.

Dembele's Barca career has been stop-start since joining from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in August 2017.

He was limited to only 24 appearances in all competitions in his first season due to injuries, and although he has managed to play 38 times this term, he has still suffered on the fitness front.

A sprained ankle saw him miss a couple of weeks of action in January and February before a hamstring tear in March ruled him out for a month.

He made his return when starting the 0-0 draw with Huesca on April 13 and lined up against Real Sociedad on Saturday. While his performances were hardly memorable, Valverde is not getting on his back.

"He played his second league game since his return the other day and he's still getting up to pace," Valverde told a news conference ahead of Tuesday's clash with Deportivo Alaves.

"He's not exactly the same as before his injury. You have to go through games before finding your place. We'll see.

"He definitely offers us speed and if other teams play high he's great on the counter. We can exploit that. He's very good in one-on-ones as well."

Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have come in for criticism during their short Barca careers and Valverde insisted every player has to earn their spot in the line-up.

"Everything is always equal between every player, no one is ahead of anyone," Valverde said.

"Sometimes one player plays, then others play. It's normal at every club, not just Barca. Every player has to find their place, their form and play well.

"They are two great players and sometimes one plays, sometimes both do."

One player Valverde is certainly happy with, however, is Arthur, with the Brazilian midfielder making a seamless transition into a key player having only joined from Gremio at the start of the season.

"He's a player who has some characteristics that fit well with the team," the coach added. "Maybe he would've had more difficulties in other teams.

"He's done very well here. He came from playing too many games, had a long-term injury last season, then playing in the national team.

"His career has taken a turn here and we hope for even more from him."

Ernesto Valverde is taking nothing for granted in Barcelona's quest for LaLiga glory despite Saturday's 2-1 win against Real Sociedad bringing the title within touching distance. 

Goals from Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba either side of Juanmi's 62nd-minute equaliser at Camp Nou maintained a nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the summit. 

If Barca beat Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday and Atleti fail to do likewise against Valencia 24 hours later, Valverde's men would retain their title by virtue of having a 12-point lead with four matches to play and a superior head-to-head record. 

Spots in the Champions League semi-finals and Copa del Rey final mean the campaign could end with a clean sweep of major honours but complacency is not on Valverde's agenda. 

"The games are not given to you, you suffer a lot to win," Barca head coach Valverde told reporters. 

"Winning is much more complicated than people think. I understand people when they say that we are already champions and that we just have to wait for the date, but the points have yet to be achieved. 

"We have to get that idea out of our heads. This is not over yet." 

Valverde acknowledged Sociedad made life tough for his team. 

"It was an uncomfortable match because they were very good and made it very difficult for us off the ball. 

"Fortunately, we got the second goal very quickly [after the equaliser] and then we defended it tooth and nail because they pushed us a lot." 

Jordi Alba felt Barcelona's midweek exertions against Manchester United took a toll after they claimed a workmanlike 2-1 LaLiga win over Real Sociedad. 

Ernesto Valverde's side cruised to a 3-0 win over the Premier League giants to book a place in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday and Saturday's victory moved them closer to back-to-back LaLiga titles. 

However, Barca needed Alba's 64th-minute winner as a swift response to Juanmi's equaliser for La Real after Clement Lenglet opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time. 

"It was tough, especially after the effort against Manchester United, but we're on the right track," Spain left-back Alba said. 

"I thought we were a little bit better in the second half than in the first. We are happy with the season, and I am happy with the goal." 

Barca also have a Copa del Rey final against Valencia to come at the end of May and Alba did not dispute that the treble chase means Valverde has to sometimes take pragmatic approach to matches. 

"I think the manager is dividing the minutes out really well among the different players, but we got the result which is the important thing," he said.  

"We controlled the game and created more chances than they did. Real Sociedad are a serious team, always willing to take the game to you, we knew they would be like that.  

"After the game we played the other day it made it a bit tough for us, but we won." 

Alba added: "I think the team's responding really well, giving 100 per cent in every game. What the team wants is to be the champion of LaLiga.  

"It seems easy because we have got a big lead, but you have to value the work we have done. Both players and the technical staff, and we also have to thank the fans who have supported us." 

Clement Lenglet's first LaLiga goal for Barcelona helped them take another step towards back-to-back titles with a 2-1 win at home to Real Sociedad.

The former Sevilla centre-back broke through on the stroke of half-time as Barca re-established a nine-point advantage over Atletico Madrid at the summit.

Ernesto Valverde's side were once again not at their fluent best but stepped up when required – Jordi Alba netting the 64th-minute winner as an instant response to Juanmi's equaliser for Imanol Alguacil's visitors.

If Barca win at Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday and Atleti do not do likewise against Valencia a day later, they will be crowned champions with four games to play.

Lionel Messi drew an early booking from La Real midfielder Mikel Merino and rippled the top of the netting with a 27th-minute free-kick. 

Barca were indebted to goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for a fabulous stop at close quarters from Juanmi, with Willian Jose blazing the rebound over. 

Ter Stegen's opposite number Geronimo Rulli got down to his right to sharply deny Luis Suarez but had no chance when Lenglet peeled into space and superbly diverted Ousmane Dembele's corner into the net. 

Valverde responded to Barca's sluggish resumption by sending on Sergio Busquets for Arthur, while Messi and Arturo Vidal combined for Dembele to sidefoot narrowly wide before the hour. 

But the equaliser La Real deserved arrived in the 62nd minute, with Juanmi sliding Merino's delightful throughball past Ter Stegen. 

Parity was short-lived as Alba cut inside and let fly with his weaker right foot, though – the goal surviving a VAR review after Dembele was deemed not to be interfering with play in an offside position. 

Ivan Rakitic could have given Barca breathing space when he clattered into the side netting 11 minutes from time, by which point Sociedad's best work was behind them. 

What does it mean? Barca frailties not harming treble bid... yet 

Sociedad were more than a match for their illustrious opponents, especially during a second half that is likely to have piqued the interest of Jurgen Klopp ahead of the Champions League semi-finals. Nevertheless, this Barca team seem able to locate the higher gears when required and a clean sweep of major honours remains very much on course. 

Lenglet stars for unlikely set-piece specialists 

Lenglet has formed a superb centre-back alliance with Gerard Pique, which came through another notable examination against La Real. It is surprising he has not cashed in before now at the other end, with the 23-year-old's excellent header Barca's 22nd goal from set-pieces this season – more than any other side in LaLiga. 

Not a wonderful time for Arthur 

When Barca stay above the prosaic for any prolonged period this season, the Brazilian maestro is usually pulling the strings. One delightful pass to send in Nelson Semedo early in the first half suggested this was on the cards, but Arthur failed to impose himself thereafter and made Valverde's pragmatism in sending on Busquets an easy call to make. 

What's next? 

Barca can take another step towards the title at Alaves on Tuesday, two days before 10th-placed Sociedad host relegation-threatened Villarreal.  

Ernesto Valverde is wary of the "very powerful" Liverpool ahead of Barcelona's Champions League semi-final against the Premier League giants.

The LaLiga champions will meet Jurgen Klopp's men in the last four, with the first leg to be played at Camp Nou on May 1.

Barca are in control of LaLiga, while Liverpool are fighting for the Premier League title and were runners-up in Europe's top club competition last season.

Valverde said Barca would be tested, particularly by the front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

"Liverpool are a very powerful opponent. Offensive players have been showing their potential in the last two years," he told a news conference on Friday.

"Last year they reached the final. This time they're having a great tournament. They are also fighting in the Premier League.

"It's a very attractive game for them, for us and for the public. It will be very hard, for them and for us.

"The final is just there and we'll give our best to reach it."

The winners will meet either Tottenham or Ajax in the final at the Wanda Metropolitano on June 1.

Barca can take another step towards securing the LaLiga title when they host Real Sociedad on Saturday, with Valverde's men nine points clear with six games to play.

Pep Guardiola is the world's best coach despite Manchester City's Champions League exit, according to Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde.

The Premier League champions were eliminated by Tottenham after a remarkable quarter-final, exiting on the away-goals rule following a 4-4 aggregate draw.

Guardiola has faced some criticism over City's failure, but is a two-time winner of the competition as a coach, leading Barcelona to the title in 2009 and 2011.

Valverde said the Spaniard, who could lead City to a treble this season, was the world's best tactician in his eyes.

"For me, the best coach is Pep Guardiola, no doubt about that," he told a news conference on Friday.

"Even if he was kicked out of the Champions League."

Barcelona will face Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals, while they are also closing in on the LaLiga title ahead of hosting Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde marvelled at Lionel Messi's form this season, lauding him for making the "special" seem routine.

Messi has been inspirational for Barca in 2018-19, scoring 45 goals across all competitions to help the club cruise in LaLiga and reach the Champions League semi-finals.

No fewer than 33 of those goals have come from just 29 LaLiga games, while his recent form of 12 strikes in eight league matches has seen Barca maintain their strong form into the crucial stages of the season.

Messi was also at his best on Tuesday when Barca beat Manchester United 3-0 – the Argentina star scoring a brace – to set up a Champions League semi-final tie with Liverpool.

His performance against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men allowed Messi to emphatically hit back at critics who suggested his first-leg display, which Barca won 1-0, was underwhelming and Valverde paid tribute on Friday.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's visit of Real Sociedad, Valverde said: "I would like to have an assortment of words, but what can I say about Leo?

"He is breaking all the records, and those he will still beat. He makes the public always expect something special from him, and he delivers it.

"We know what he is, what he means from a global point of view and we are enjoying that."

Ernesto Valverde has been surprised by the reaction to Philippe Coutinho's celebration after his sensational goal in Barcelona's win over Manchester United.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde insisted he was unfazed by Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo's shock Champions League exit.

The Serie A giants were stunned 2-1 by Ajax in Turin on Tuesday, losing the quarter-final tie 3-2 on aggregate.

Meanwhile, Barcelona cruised past Manchester United 4-0 on aggregate after recording a 3-0 victory at Camp Nou.

Ronaldo failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2009-10 as Juve's quest for European glory fell short again, but Valverde said there were no guarantees for any club.

"I don't look at particular players, I look at teams. Juventus are not there, but Ajax will be there. I don't know if that's an advantage or not," he told a news conference.

"We'll have to see what Ajax are doing, of course. What's clear is nothing is written, nothing is set in stone.

"Anything can happen, so we'll be looking at the TV to see who our opponents are."

Barcelona will face either Liverpool or Porto in the semi-finals, while Ajax meet Tottenham or Manchester City.

Valverde was asked about the influence of Johan Cruyff on potentially three of the four semi-finalists in the Dutchman's former clubs Barcelona and Ajax and maybe City, who are managed by one of his disciples in Pep Guardiola.

"I'm sure [he is an influence] because at the end our styles are similar, you can recognise a common nexus there, a common core," Valverde said.

"The three teams try to play a particular kind of football, but we will see how it goes.

"We will go out there to enjoy, especially after a game if we win because at the end of the day we can talk about many things but you need to find a style to engage the fans but you have to take it and bring victories."

Ernesto Valverde praised Lionel Messi for "always" delivering after the star guided Barcelona past Manchester United and into the Champions League semi-finals.

Messi scored a first-half brace and Philippe Coutinho added Barca's third in a 3-0 win over United at Camp Nou on Tuesday, a result that sealed a 4-0 aggregate success.

The goals were Messi's first in the Champions League quarter-finals since April 2013 as Barca moved into a last-four meeting with either Liverpool or Porto.

Valverde was predictably delighted with Messi, who is up to 45 goals in all competitions this season.

"Messi always appears," he told Movistar. "Not only in moments, but in the games as a whole.

"He scores but is also the offensive weight of our team."

Barca will enter the semi-finals as one of the favourites to win the Champions League for what would be their sixth title.

However, head coach Valverde played down favouritism and said his side's next focus was on reaching the final at the Wanda Metropolitano on June 1.

"We have done two good games. That is what you have to do to be able to continue in the Champions League and that you consider us more or less favourites," he said.

"We are well. We are confident for the next tie against a great rival and for that we have 10 or 15 days left. We would like to reach the final."

Lionel Messi is fully fit to face Manchester United and ready to end his long drought in the Champions League quarter-finals, according to Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde.

Star forward Messi skipped the weekend draw against Huesca after an accidental elbow from Chris Smalling left him with a bloody nose and a bruised eye at Old Trafford last week.

The LaLiga club returned from Manchester with a 1-0 advantage, giving them a useful cushion as they look to seal their progression at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Messi's presence in the starting XI serves as a significant boost but the 31-year-old has not scored at this stage of the competition since 2013, a streak spanning 12 quarter-final appearances.

"That means he's closer to scoring again," Valverde replied at Monday's media conference when asked about Messi's barren run.

"Statistics tell you about the past, but not the future. We don't know what's going to happen and that's an incentive for everyone.

"He's fine after the knock he had. He's in perfect shape for tomorrow."

Ousmane Dembele, an unused substitute in the first leg, is in contention to join Messi and Luis Suarez in Barcelona's attack.

The 21-year-old France winger completed over an hour on his return from a hamstring injury against Huesca and could start on Tuesday.

"He didn't play for four weeks but he will be able to participate in this game," Valverde said.

"We're not sure for how long. He played for around 70 minutes the other day and played well. He might start and he might not."

Much of the belief that United can overturn the first-leg deficit has centred on the Premier League club's impressive last-16 fightback against Paris Saint-Germain, as well as their famous triumph over Bayern Munich in the 1999 final when now-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored a stoppage-time winner at Camp Nou.

Valverde, however, cares little for the influence of history.

"I'm more about writing my own destiny," he said. "Tomorrow we have to write our own destiny and so do Manchester United.

"There's no fear, just tremendous excitement. We're ready to go through knowing anything can happen. I think we're all aware a tough game awaits and we're all looking forward to it."

Ernesto Valverde was proud of the way his back-up Barcelona side performed at Huesca despite them being held to a disappointing 0-0 draw on Saturday.

LaLiga's bottom club earned a deserved point at home to the leaders, who made 10 changes to the starting line-up from the Champions League quarter-final first-leg win over Manchester United three days ago.

With United visiting on Tuesday and Barca commanding a healthy advantage at the top of the league table, Valverde took the opportunity to rest stars including Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic.

Moussa Wague and Jean-Clair Todibo made their debuts for the Catalans, while Riqui Puig and Jeison Murillo earned first league performances, with Kevin-Prince Boateng given a run-out and Ousmane Dembele granted a full hour as he works his way back to full fitness.

And head coach Valverde was pleased with Barca's display given the makeshift line-up he deployed.

"We're happy because it was a difficult match for us. A lot of new people came in, but they understood what they had to do," he said.

"I did not want to play [Nelson] Semedo or [Jordi] Alba because they played the full game the other day. Sergi Roberto had muscle discomfort, too. We were forced to play with Malcom on one wing and Wague on the other.

"It cost us a little at the beginning, but we're happy because the players went above and beyond, and we had our options. It was tough, but I thought that's what we needed to do.

"You have to understand the circumstances around the game. They were not normal debuts, like when a player debuts alongside the first-choice players. 

"We changed a lot of players, the way to play and against a team that's playing against relegation."

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