Ernesto Valverde insists he is not worried about Luis Suarez's goal drought after he once again struggled in Barcelona's 0-0 Champions League draw at Lyon.

Uruguay international Suarez was excellent in the first half of the season, but he has been rather less effective in front of goal since then, and that is reflected in Barca's form, having now drawn four of their last five games in all competitions.

Suarez was lively in France against Lyon in the opening leg of their last-16 clash, sniffing out a few opportunities, but his finishing left a lot to be desired and he looked visibly frustrated on numerous occasions on Tuesday.

It was the fifth game in a row Suarez has not scored in, while he passed 24 hours of playing time in the Champions League without an away goal in the 22nd minute.

Barca head coach Valverde is not concerned, however.

"I would worry if he did not generate scoring chances, which is what is asked of a striker," Valverde told reporters.

"He always has chances and if not, he generates them and is a headache for the rival. And, in any case, he is linked well with the occasions we've created.

"Football is a matter of success. If the opposition wastes occasions I get nervous; if we waste them, it only bothers me."

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde accepts the 0-0 draw they secured away to Lyon in the Champions League on Tuesday is a "dangerous" result.

Valverde's side generally controlled proceedings in France, but they were wasteful in front of goal and Lionel Messi was unable to create much of note.

It leaves the tie nicely poised for the second leg at Camp Nou on March 13 and Barca will be seen as favourites, but Valverde is well aware that Tuesday's result provides Lyon with encouragement.

"I do not think it is very easy to win away from home in the Champions League," Valverde told Movistar. "We have absolutely dominated and they have not lost any match in this competition so far this season.

"Lyon had chances in the beginning but we came back well and we controlled the game until the end.

"We have created a lot of chances, but football is a matter of success and today we have not had it. The tie is in the air, 0-0 is a dangerous result, we will not kid ourselves."

Lyon defender Leo Dubois believes the draw gives his side every chance to progress to the quarter-finals and feels they did well despite Messi occupying more than one defender at a time.

"They have a player [Messi] who keeps a full defensive line busy," he said. "We tried to push them out from the middle, as they are less of a threat from the wings.

"The scoreline is fine for us. We still have a chance to progress even if we know it will be tough. We believe in ourselves.

"We weren't necessarily in control at times. We may also have mismanaged some counter situations. Everyone did their part and made the effort. We have everything to play for in three weeks. It's up to us to play a big match."

Barcelona are beginning to plan for a future without Lionel Messi, although club president Josep Maria Bartomeu believes he will sign another contract.

The 31-year-old's current deal will expire after the 2020-21 campaign and the Barca captain has previously said he would like to return to his homeland with boyhood club Newell's Old Boys.

Messi started his career at Newell's but moved to Barcelona as a teenager, developing into an all-time great of the game with nine LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.

Bartomeu remains hopeful Messi can be persuaded to extend his time at the club even further but accepts Barca must have a plan for when the Argentina international moves on.

"We are already thinking about it, but it is a future still far away," Bartomeu said to Le Figaro. "He is a young player, he is 31-years-old, his performance is very good, he plays even better and better, I do not know how he does it!

"He has a contract for two seasons, but I think he will extend his career beyond 2021. But you have to think of young talent. When Messi no longer plays, no one can replace him. It's impossible.

"Behind Messi, there is nobody. Neither in Barca nor anywhere else. The coach of the day will have to think of how the team will play [but] the idea of Barca football will remain the same."

Barcelona have been strongly linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain's Adrien Rabiot, but Bartomeu denied there has been contact between the LaLiga leaders and the France international.

Rabiot is expected to leave PSG at the end of the season, when his deal expires, with the midfielder not in contention for selection by coach Thomas Tuchel due to the contract stand-off.

"The planning of the club for the next seasons is not yet launched, we will start in March," Bartomeu said of links to Rabiot.

"In addition, Barca always puts the priority on the players of our B team. If we do not find them, we will look for them outside.

"The only sure thing about Rabiot is that on June 30 he will be free."

One player who will be lining up for Barca next season is the Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, with the Netherlands international adding to Ernesto Valverde's midfield options after agreeing a move worth €86million.

"When a player arrives at Barca, he knows he will be competing. It's a challenge for them, some accept it, others do not," Bartomeu continued. "When we go looking for a talent outside, we are sometimes told: 'I want to play, not be on the bench.'

"He is a player who will mark a time of European football. He has an incredible talent and an understanding of football which is that of Barca... and the same as that of Ajax."

Barcelona know they must not "let their guard down" after last season's Champions League exit to Roma, according to coach Ernesto Valverde. 

The LaLiga giants looked set for a semi-final berth after winning the first leg 4-1 at home but capitulated in the Italian capital, going out on away goals after a humiliating 3-0 defeat. 

Valverde's side return to knockout action on Tuesday with a visit to Lyon and the Barca boss is confident there will be no such complacency this time out. 

"The learning of Rome is that you should not let your guard down," he told a media conference. 

"In the first leg, you need to have a high guard - we will take this into account. 

"When we played Roma everyone said they were a weak opponent, which did not help us.

"We are eager to play because we've been waiting for the game for a while, and we're under pressure because we know the enthusiasm of our fans."

After three successive draws, including a 1-1 result at home against Real Madrid in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, Barca returned to winning ways on Saturday with a slender 1-0 triumph over Real Valladolid.

Not all supporters are happy, though, with some taking issue with Valverde's tactics after the team managed just two goals in their last three outings.

The Barca boss, who recently signed a one-year extension to his contract, is unfazed, though, and insists his side plays attacking football.

"Everyone has their own opinion," he added.

"We are a team that clearly plays to attack. I do not have much more to say, we'll see on Tuesday."

Lyon's influential playmaker Nabil Fekir will miss the game through suspension and Valverde admits that is a boost to Barca's chances.

"I'm not going to deny that he is a player who can decide any game," he said.

"He is crucial to the offensive game of his team. It is an important loss and we will try to take advantage of it."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde is not worried about Lionel Messi taking penalties after the superstar scored one and failed to convert another against Real Valladolid.

It was a mixed evening for Messi at Camp Nou, where the Barca captain's 43rd-minute penalty led the LaLiga leaders to a 1-0 victory on Saturday.

Messi – who has scored 30 or more goals in each of his last 11 seasons in all competitions for Barca – should have had a second but the five-time Ballon d'Or winner saw his 85th-minute spot-kick kept out by Jordi Masip.

"No, no, I'm not particularly nervous. I was convinced he was going to score both," Valverde replied when asked if he was anxious about Messi taking penalties.

"Leo is a safe bet. He could have scored more goals as well."

Barca were far from their best but the defending champions still managed to get past visitors Valladolid as they returned to winning ways.

Three consecutive draws against Valencia and Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga, and Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-finals, raised eyebrows and while Valverde acknowledged Barca's shortcomings on Saturday, he is confident his side will rediscover their best.

Barca travel to French side Lyon for the opening leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

"In the first half, we had very little fluidity in attack and did not move the ball with the necessary speed," Valverde told reporters.

"They changed their system and we were not fluent and could not circulate things quickly but their goalkeeper did well. Some games are won like that, though, and Tuesday [against Lyon] will be another challenge for us.

"I see the team as being ready to give their best now and get back to that. Sometimes you won't be brilliant in every game but there are four important matches coming up and we will go step by step."

Lionel Messi netted his 30th goal of the season before missing his second penalty of the game as leaders Barcelona returned to winning ways in LaLiga with a 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid.

Gerard Pique won the 43rd-minute spot kick that proved the difference between the sides but, following back-to-back draws against Valencia and Athletic Bilbao in the top flight, Ernesto Valverde's men were again short of their fluent best.

Those previous results and Atletico Madrid's win over third-bottom Rayo Vallecano earlier on Saturday meant Barca went into the game with their now-restored lead at the top trimmed to four points.

Former Blaugrana goalkeeper Jordi Masip impressed in goal for Valladolid, not least after substitute Philippe Coutinho won a second penalty and he plunged to his left to deny Messi.

Referee Juan Martinez Munuera rejected earlier penalty claims from Kevin-Prince Boateng on his first LaLiga start but was persuaded by Pique's slightly theatrical fall under Michel's clumsy challenge.

Masip guessed correctly to his left but was beaten for power and accuracy by Messi, before Pique made himself useful in his own box – getting a vital touch with Enes Unal poised to convert Nacho's cross.

Sergi Guardiola dragged a shot wide as Valladolid continued to acquit themselves well in the second half, although they were indebted to a stunning reaction save from Masip as he denied Messi on the half-volley.

The visiting keeper scrambled from his line effectively to snuff out danger after Boateng sprung a flimsy offside trap in the 55th minute.

Luis Suarez replaced the ex-AC Milan attacker with an hour played and he was soon thwarted by Masip in a one-on-one.

Messi's frustrations approached boiling point as he was booked for protests following a robust challenge from Anuar Mohamed.

He would prove the match-winner, even if Masip did his mood no favours five minutes from time, calmly pouching his headed follow-up from the penalty save.

What does it mean? Barcelona doing enough but nothing more

This was certainly not the performance Valverde will have wanted in the week he signed a surprise contract renewal at Camp Nou. Victory guaranteed Barcelona will return to European action next week holding at least a six-point advantage at LaLiga's summit, with Real Madrid in action against Girona on Sunday.

But the coming months look likely to arrive with some uncomfortable questions. Again Valverde rested key players and the supporting cast failed to convince, while recent displays have more in common with the humbling Champions League exits to Juventus and Roma in the past two seasons than more glorious campaigns.

Masip enjoys Camp Nou return

Never more than a peripheral figure at Barcelona – Saturday's appearance doubled his amount of LaLiga appearances at Camp Nou – La Masia graduate Masip was superb on his return. The early second-half save from Messi was the game's outstanding moment until he denied the great man again from 12 yards. A remarkable stop from Suarez in stoppage time completed a fabulous body of work.

Alena fails to grab opportunity

The academy that reared Masip is more famous for producing playmaking midfielders, although the well has run dry in that regard of late. Carles Alena is the outstanding talent of the most recent crop, a tidy and elegant central operator. But his radar was askew here, with several passes misplaced in clanging fashion. Alena's start came as Ivan Rakitic was rested, but Valverde tellingly summoned the Croatia star in his place 14 minutes from time.

What's next

Barcelona travel to Lyon in the last-16 of the Champions League on Tuesday before a tough away assignment in LaLiga next weekend at Sevilla, whose city rivals Real Betis are Valladolid’s visitors.

Ernesto Valverde has scoffed at the suggestion Barcelona should be afraid they could be caught by Real Madrid in the LaLiga title race.

Madrid moved second in the table behind Barca, albeit still six points back, with a derby defeat of their city rivals Atletico Madrid last weekend.

Barca's successive draws in the league have opened the door to Madrid, with Valverde's men having seemingly been on track to comfortably defend the title.

Madrid have cranked up the mind games with two more Clasico meetings upcoming - the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final and a LaLiga clash at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 2.

Captain Sergio Ramos said Madrid can catch Barca in the title race while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois claimed teams will be "scared" of facing Santiago Solari's in-form side.

Valverde, however, noted Barca are still in a strong position to do the double again, having drawn at home to Madrid in the first leg of their Copa Clasico clash.

"Afraid of what? We compete against the same teams as ever for the league," Valverde told reporters on Friday. 

"Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla. To be scared when we are top of the league? I don't think so."

Valverde ended speculation over his long-term Barca future by agreeing a one-year contract extension on Friday, with the deal including an option for a further 12 months.

"I always told news conferences I have a good relationship with the club so it came about naturally," he added. "The club made a proposal some time ago and I had some time to think about it and analyse our progress.

"We felt it seemed like a good time to make an announcement. We are all on the same wavelength at the club so it was an easy decision for me.

"Whenever you sign a contract with a player or manager you have the best intentions and high expectations but we all know football, it's determined very much by results.

"I assume that yes they trust in me to get those titles, but we know how capricious football can be. You don't always end up winning even if you think you deserve to."

Valverde, though, is fully aware his stabilised position at Camp Nou could come under threat at the end of the season if Barca do not seal any silverware.

"If that happens then ask me again," he said. "But let's wait and see what happens first."

Ernesto Valverde feels his contract extension with Barcelona is proof the club are willing to give him additional responsibility.

Valverde won a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double in his first season in charge at Camp Nou after joining from Athletic Bilbao.

But, with his initial two-year deal due to expire at the end of the season, it had been unclear whether or not Valverde would be staying for the 2019-2020 campaign.

There have also been reports Valverde and the Barca board do not see eye to eye on transfers, with claims Malcom was bought from Bordeaux despite the coach's lack of interest in the winger.

News on Friday that Valverde has put pen to paper on a one-year extension has ended the speculation he may walk away from the club, however.

And the 55-year-old is thrilled to be spending at least one further year at the helm.

"I have a feeling that I'm living through a unique experience," said Valverde. "I'm grateful that the club values what I am doing.

"So, I thought about the possibility of continuing and really I am happy, delighted with the situation.

"We have a lot of challenges ahead of us. A lot of games to win, a lot of trophies to win as well.

"And the fact that the club is thinking about me to continue with the project makes me feel good and gives me more responsibility."

President Josep Maria Bartomeu added: "By renewing Ernesto Valverde's contract we are guaranteeing the continuation of a coach and person who so excellently represents the Barcelona values and our way of understanding football. We're sharing a winning project for Barca."

Barcelona are six points clear at the top of LaLiga despite drawing their past two games in the league, while Valverde's side face Lyon in the last 16 of the Champions League and take on rivals Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final later this month.

Barcelona surprised few by announcing a contract extension for coach Ernesto Valverde on Friday, a just reward for a strong start to life at Camp Nou.

Valverde, 55, is in his second season at the helm in Catalonia having joined from Athletic Bilbao, and he has been an instant success.

Barca won LaLiga and the Copa del Rey in Valverde's first campaign, while they look on course to at least repeat that double this season, sitting six points clear at the summit with a Copa semi-final second leg at Real Madrid to look forward to.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said earlier in the week that he had no doubts about Valverde and was adamant he was to remain in charge next term – a sentiment confirmed by Friday's announcement, as the coach signed a one-year extension with the option of a further season.

Valverde is not the visionary many feel Pep Guardiola is, nor was his team convincing in the Champions League last year, but Barca's faith is surely well-placed for several reasons.

 

Happy Messi, happy Barca

One thing no one can doubt about Valverde's time at Barca has been his use of talisman Lionel Messi. The Argentine scored 34 goals in 36 LaLiga games last term, while he has 21 in 21 appearances this season. The coach has got the very best from his star man, making him the centre of everything they do. System-wise, the team is perhaps more rigid and calculated under Valverde than it had been for a while – but Messi retains freedom and that has produced fine results.

 

Thriving despite muddled transfer business

Valverde has had to contend with a complete lack of organisation and direction from those in charge of the club's recruitment, and he was dealt a devastating blow in losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain soon after joining Barca. The head coach was reportedly unhappy with the departure of former sporting director Robert Fernandez, while the signing of Malcom is said to have been done without his consultation. On top of that, Paulinho's sale apparently frustrated him and a host of other arrivals have made little impact as yet - namely Philippe Coutinho, Nelson Semedo, Jeison Murillo, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Arturo Vidal. Still Valverde thrives, however.

 

Stability in a chaotic world

No one is going to claim Valverde is in a class of his own, a coach who will revolutionise the modern game. He is not a Johan Cruyff, or a Guardiola, and his teams do not play swashbuckling, all-out attacking football that has the masses watching in astonishment. However, the Champions League aside, his system has unequivocally worked at Barca, bringing two major trophies and there is every chance he will add to that tally this season. It would be all too easy to ditch him for a shiny new toy, much like Madrid with Julen Lopetegui earlier in the campaign, but stability in the cut-throat environment of modern football can only be a good thing in this situation.

Ernesto Valverde has agreed a new contract as Barcelona coach until the end of next season with the option for a further year, the club have confirmed.

Valverde is in his second campaign at Camp Nou, having joined from Athletic Bilbao, and has enjoyed a strong start to life as Barca's coach – winning LaLiga and the Copa del Rey in 2017-18.

Once again the Catalan giants look well on track for a successful season this time around, sitting six points clear at the top of the table after 23 matches, while they are also in the semi-finals of the Copa and the Champions League last 16.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu spoke highly of Valverde earlier in the week, insisting he would be in charge of the team next season regardless of whether they win any silverware.

And Barca have made such a commitment official, handing him a new contract which could also see him remain at the helm until 2021.

Valverde's success at Barca has come in spite of criticism of the club's transfer dealings.

Players such as Philippe Coutinho, Arturo Vidal and Malcom have struggled to have the desired impact, but still Valverde's team have impressed and got results.

Club talisman Lionel Messi has also continued to thrive, with Valverde giving him a free role which saw him score 34 goals in 36 LaLiga games last term, while he has 21 in as many appearances in the league this season.

The former Athletic, Espanyol, Villarreal and Olympiacos coach is due to speak at a news conference later on Friday.

Ernesto Valverde has agreed a new contract as Barcelona coach until the end of next season with the option for a further year, the club have confirmed.

Lionel Messi will stay at Barcelona and his relationship with the club will last "forever", according to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Messi, 31, is enjoying another fine season with the Catalan giants, having scored 21 goals in as many LaLiga games this season, with Barca six points clear at the summit.

The Argentine star has just over two years left on his Barca contract and will be 34 when it expires.

Messi has previously stated his desire to play in his native Argentina with Newell's Old Boys before he finishes his career.

But Bartomeu does not want to see Messi leave the club, confident a new contract will be agreed to keep him at Camp Nou for the remainder of his career.

"Leo Messi will continue with us," Bartomeu told RKB. "He is a club player and the relationship will continue forever.

"He has told us that he wants to continue. We have offered him a new contract over five years and I hope we will continue discussing the deal."

Bartomeu also expects coach Ernesto Valverde to remain at the club for the foreseeable future, adamant he will stay even if they win no trophies this season.

"I believe he will stay," he added. "He trusts his players and it is only his second season in charge.

"The goal is to finish the season strong and win everything. I trust him to lead the team and even if we do not win anything, he will continue to coach the team."

Ernesto Valverde does not believe Barcelona's current form is a cause for concern.

Barca had their LaLiga lead trimmed to five points by Real Madrid's derby win over Atletico Madrid this weekend – their subsequent goalless draw at Athletic Bilbao meaning the advantage stands at six points with 15 games remaining.

Including last week's 1-1 draw with Madrid in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, Valverde's side are without a win in three matches across all competitions.

Speaking to reporters after the game at his old San Mames stomping ground, the Blaugrana head coach suggested a dose of perspective was required.

"Well we were first last week, we're first this week and, if I'm not mistaken, we'll be leaders next week as well," he said.

"That's the situation. There are weeks when you earn a lot of points and some when you don't.

"It's a long season and we'll wait until the end to make a judgement."

Barcelona host relegation-threatened Real Valladolid next weekend before travelling to Lyon in the last 16 of the Champions League.

When a Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid overcame Liverpool 3-1 in last season's Champions League final, the triumph merely scratched the surface of LaLiga's recent dominance in Europe's premier club competition.

Having become the first team in the Champions League era to retain the title against Juventus in Cardiff in 2017, head coach Zinedine Zidane made it three in a row before riding off into the sunset.

Madrid have won four out of five, their bitter rivals Barcelona interrupting the streak in 2015. Indeed, Liverpool and Juventus proved to be the only interlopers on a Spanish party during this period – Atletico Madrid were left in anguish by their city rivals in 2014 and 2016.

Five wins out of five and seven of the previous 10 finalists paints a picture of total domination that felt unlikely after Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund in an all-Bundesliga affair at Wembley in 2013.

That experience shows the folly of declaring the beginning and end of eras, but LaLiga's grip on continental supremacy appears somewhat looser as this season's knockout rounds get underway.

No Zidane, no Ronaldo = no party?

That Madrid's struggles post-Kiev seemed, to an extent, so inevitable is a damning indictment of president Florentino Perez and the Bernabeu hierarchy.

Zidane caught them off guard – Madrid head coaches are habitually pushed rather than jumping on their own terms – but the pursuit of Julen Lopetegui was an unseemly mess that counted torpedoing Spain's World Cup campaign among its collateral.

A chequebook that remained tightly bound even after Cristiano Ronaldo's departure to Juventus gave an indication of why Los Blancos were so hasty in wrapping up the Lopetegui deal. They were not presenting a strong hand to any incoming coach.

Being able to rely on an all-time great forward and the inspiration of a club hero in the dressing room had papered over plenty of ills and Lopetegui trudged out of his second dream job in a matter of months following a 5-1 hammering in El Clasico.

Messi carrying Barcelona

Barcelona accomplished that October humiliation of their bitter foes without a sidelined Lionel Messi as Luis Suarez produced a bravura display.

However, recent weeks have added weight to claims of Messidependencia. The mercurial Argentinian was rested for Copa del Rey ties at Levante and Sevilla and had to be recalled to pull around first-leg defeats. He came off the bench in last week's 1-1 semi final draw at home to Madrid despite injury fears.

Those losses and a 2-2 LaLiga draw against Valencia pointed to unaddressed defensive vulnerabilities, exacerbated by Ernesto Valverde's squad rotation – a necessity of the modern game, but the drop-off when the Barca boss rests weary legs is often stark.

Sunday's stalemate at Athletic Bilbao made it three winless games across all competitions, while uncertainty over whether Valverde will stay beyond the end of this season might count against players going the extra mile..

Atletico fluffing their lines

The thrill of Atletico's 2013-14 LaLiga triumph and their Champions League final appearances was how against the odds it all felt.

Diego Simeone's side cannot be so easily cast in that role this time around, given they mark a contrast to the sense of drift witnessed at their city rivals and Barca.

After tying star forward Antoine Griezmann down to a long-term contract, Simeone was reportedly set to follow suit at the end of last year. What he has built in the shadow of two giants is, by any measure, incredible.

But it feels reasonable to ask whether Atleti could be doing more.

Barcelona have left the door ajar in LaLiga, failing to win eight matches this term. But Atleti have now dropped points 11 times and find themselves behind Madrid after Saturday's sapping 3-1 defeat on their own patch in El Derbi.

PSG, Juventus, Manchester City – can anyone take advantage?

If those flaws paint an unconvincing picture for Atletico, Barcelona and Real Madrid, the lack of a solid counter-argument from Europe's pretenders to the throne gives cause for encouragement.

Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham are embroiled in a fierce and sapping battle for the Premier League title, which has magnified flaws with in each excellent team. All face Bundesliga opposition this month and must be wary of becoming over-stretched.

The other Premier League participant, Manchester United, are revelling in a post-Jose Mourinho feelgood factor under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and represent an unappetising prospect for a Neymar-less Paris Saint-Germain, who are still to bring their Ligue 1 dominance to bear on the European stage.

Juventus' move for Ronaldo was the clearest statement yet of their determination to take the final step – an experienced side hitting the sort of peak Bayern Munich now have in their rear view mirror.

The Old Lady's showdown with Atleti is the pick of the last 16 ties and could prove a bellwether when it comes to assessing LaLiga's current strength.

Following a home loss to Real Sociedad at the start of the year, Madrid have rediscovered the winning feeling, something deeply ingrained in their muscle memory where the big trophy is concerned.

Interim boss Santiago Solari came through this week's clashes against Barcelona and Atletico intact, with a reputation enhanced and confidence blossoming within his squad. Ajax are up next, having lost two of their past three Eredivisie outings. It couldn't happen again, could it?

Meanwhile, focusing upon Barca without Messi ignores the terrifying prospect for opponents when he is in full flight.

LaLiga's heavyweights might not swagger as they once did, but the rest will have to walk taller than before to knock them off their stride.  

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde dismissed suggestions Lionel Messi was not fit enough to start in Sunday's 0-0 draw at Athletic Bilbao.

LaLiga's leaders were held to a third draw in succession across all competitions, as they were frustrated at San Mames by Athletic.

Messi started Wednesday's 1-1 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg draw against Real Madrid on the bench due to a thigh knock, but he came back into the line-up in Bilbao.

The Argentina star was Barca's liveliest player, yet he still appeared to be a little off colour compared his usual level of performance.

As such, Barca were kept at bay, as Philippe Coutinho did little to ease the burden on their talisman, but Valverde is adamant Messi was in condition to play.

Speaking to reporters, Valverde said: "Messi is fine and he has played at 100 per cent.

"He has had some difficulties, because we had them as a collective, but when he plays it is because is absolutely convinced everything is fine."

Valverde accepted that Arturo Vidal and Coutinho were some way short of their best, however.

"It's like everything else when you get a draw that you think that you should have won," Valverde said.

"It is a matter for the whole team and people always point to a player because he failed a pass or some situation. It is true that sometimes they can be more successful."

 

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