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Monday, February 5, 2018

Valverde: Pique's celebration must be viewed in the context of our rivalry

Flying tackles and rough challenges were part and parcel of a wet Catalan derby on Sunday with Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde happy to accept that such is natural for these games.
Gerard Pique grabbed the Blaugrana a late leveller away to Espanyol with the defender's celebration, a finger raised to his lips, emblematic of the tension surrounding the match.
"We already know what these game are going to be like," said Valverde to the assembled press.
"In the first-half there were a few fouls, but then it warmed up, which is the usual for a derby. Every tackle seemed to be something more than a simple tackle because the players slip.
"I contextualise [Pique's celebration] as part of all that gone on this week and how the rivalry has unfolded.
"He's been good for us because he assumes a lot of responsibility in these games."
Torrential rain made for an unusual spectacle in LaLiga, one that Valverde thought was more in Espanyol's advantage than his own team's.
"[It was] difficult because, as the game progressed, we could play less and had to adapt to the conditions on the fly," added Valverde.
"In the second-half, with the rain, the ball kept stopping and the pitch was dangerous.
"Taking into account our style, I think it was difficult for us to adapt. We were forced to play long and I think [Espanyol] took advantage of the conditions."
The Barcelona coach discussed his decision to rest Lionel Messi, acknowledging that each player will have to be rotated at some point during a busy season.
"There are many games in a row and we have to be a little careful," he noted.
"We usually do so with each player. I had planned to do it on the fly. He can win us many things at any ground."