Spain's Real Madrid core of no concern to Valverde

By Sports Desk September 14, 2018

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde thinks suggestions of a Real Madrid dominance of the Spain squad are inaccurate. 

Madrid stars Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Nacho Fernandez, Dani Ceballos, Isco and Marco Asensio all started Tuesday's 6-0 Nations League thrashing of Croatia in Elche, while only Sergio Busquets was involved from a Barca perspective.

With Sergi Roberto the only other Barca player in the 23-man squad, there have been suggestions Madrid are becoming the dominant force within the national team, despite the presence of ex-Blaugrana head coach Luis Enrique.

However, Valverde highlighted that of those six Madrid players, only Nacho and Carvajal came through the youth system.

He also pointed to the absence of three Spain regulars over recent years from Barca who were not involved this time: Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, who have retired from international football, and the overlooked Jordi Alba.

"I think you need to read things properly," he told a news conference. "It was said before how there were more Barca than Madrid players; now, there are more Madrid than Barca players.

"There are players who weren't there, like Andres, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba. In recent years, Madrid have signed players who can be called up, like Asensio, Isco, Dani Ceballos.

"If you look at the players from the Madrid and Barca youth teams, they are similar. I have the impression they're similar. 

"In any case, we'll fight to change that and to have more of our players called up."

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  • Messi not Sevilla's only worry with Navas in doubt Messi not Sevilla's only worry with Navas in doubt

    Sevilla must not allow Lionel Messi's superb record against them to distort their broader focus on Barcelona, Pablo Machin has warned.

    The Blaugrana's superstar captain boasts a personal best 33 goals in all competitions against Sevilla, who head into Saturday's crunch home fixture without a win in three LaLiga matches.

    Sevilla beat Barca 2-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie last month, only to crumble to a 6-1 defeat at Camp Nou on Messi's return to the starting XI.

    The 31-year-old Argentina great has netted 22 times in as many LaLiga appearances this term and shapes as the key figure in a match billed as pivotal in the champions' bid to defend their title.

    "He is the best in the world and we have to realise that," Sevilla head coach Machin said.

    "That's obvious, but their team is very strong as well. Barcelona scored five against Real Madrid [in October] without Messi.

    "He is important but the collective is even more so."

    Sevilla's impressive early season form has ebbed away in 2019 and left the Andalusian club 17 points adrift of top spot.

    They successfully ousted Lazio from the Europa League's last 16 with a 3-0 aggregate victory, but Jesus Navas picked up a muscle problem in the late stages of Wednesday's second leg.

    The 33-year-old is now in a race against time to be fit for Barca's visit despite being included in Machin's 18-man squad.

    "Other than the injured players we already had, Navas is the biggest doubt," he added.

    "We have to see how he progresses. These 24 hours are important to see how the player is, what sensations he has and from there make a decision."

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