Valverde leaves Barcelona: Five games where it went wrong

By Sports Desk January 13, 2020

Given he delivered back-to-back LaLiga titles and left Barcelona still at the summit, Ernesto Valverde's departure appears perplexing on the surface.

There has been no great decline to speak of, no obvious player revolt and no boardroom bickering.

Why then have the Blaugrana opted to part ways with their head coach and replace him with Quique Setien, a man who could only lead Real Betis to a 10th-place finish last term?

We have taken a look at the five games which might have ultimately resulted in Valverde's exit.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona. Champions League quarter-final second leg. April 10, 2018.

After being beaten in both legs of the Supercopa de Espana by Real Madrid to begin his reign, things picked up for Valverde, who enjoyed a 36-match unbeaten run at the beginning of the 2017-18 LaLiga campaign.

However, two and a half weeks before that title triumph was sealed, Barcelona were stunned in Europe.

Valverde's side were in control of the tie having beaten the Serie A side 4-1 at home, but Roma became only the third side in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg deficit of three goals or more.

Greek defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal eight minutes from time as Roma went through on away goals and Valverde suffered his first, but not last, European humiliation.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona. Champions League semi-final second leg. May 7, 2019.

Fast forward a year and a case of deja vu, with Barca sitting pretty on a 3-0 first-leg lead in their last-four tie against Liverpool.

The Reds were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the return fixture at Anfield, where Divock Origi's early goal only gave them a sliver of hope.

Yet Barca looked shell-shocked as Georginio Wijnaldum's double was followed up by another Origi strike, Liverpool incredibly progressing to a final they would win.

Described in the Spanish press as a "debacle", "tragedy" and "historic failure", the writing seemed to be on the wall for Valverde from that point.

Barcelona 1-2 Valencia. Copa del Rey final. May 25, 2019. 

Not even a second LaLiga title could silence Valverde's doubters, who had more ammo when his team lost to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Valverde had hoped a victory would ease the pain of the Liverpool loss but Barca were stunned again, Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo putting Valencia 2-0 ahead before Lionel Messi pulled one back.

Rather than wield the axe, though, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu absolved Valverde of blame for the result.

 

Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona. LaLiga. January 4, 2020.

Away defeats to Athletic Bilbao, Granada and Levante would have looked costlier had the champions' nearest rivals Real Madrid not stumbled along themselves in the first half of this season.

Both teams' struggles were evident in a 0-0 Clasico draw at Camp Nou in December, but it was Barcelona's first result back after the mid-season break that would have set more alarm bells ringing.

Derby rivals Espanyol were bottom of the table and had not beaten Barca in LaLiga since 2009 but Frenkie de Jong was sent off as the strugglers claimed a 2-2 draw.

Barcelona 2-3 Atletico Madrid. Supercopa de Espana semi-final. January 9, 2020.

Five days later and it got even worse for Valverde and Barcelona.

Leading 2-1 in Saudi Arabia with nine minutes to go, the Blaugrana collapsed again late on, with Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa sending Atletico through to a final against their cross-city rivals Madrid.

It meant Barcelona had won just one of their previous five games, a sour note to end on for Valverde.

Related items

  • Injured Roberto out of Barcelona's Napoli and Madrid assignments Injured Roberto out of Barcelona's Napoli and Madrid assignments

    Sergi Roberto will miss Barcelona's Champions League tie with Napoli and the Clasico against Real Madrid after injuring one of the adductor muscles in his right thigh.

    The Spain international was an unused substitute as Barca thrashed Eibar 5-0 on Saturday but Roberto, who can play at right-back or in the centre of midfield, is not part of the squad for the last-16 first-leg fixture in Naples.

    Barca confirmed Roberto will miss around three to four weeks of action via a statement on their official website, which means he will also miss a vital top-of-the-table clash at Real Madrid next weekend.

    One of the quirkier additions on Barca's squad list for Napoli - albeit his name was accompanied by an asterisk - was Martin Braithwaite, who cannot play in the Champions League as he is not registered.

    Denmark forward Braithwaite signed in a controversial deal from Leganes this week after Barca were granted permission to make an emergency transfer outside of the window.

    Barca's victory over Eibar and Madrid's defeat at Levante on Saturday means Quique Setien's men sit top of LaLiga by two points. However, Roberto's injury is the latest to have limited Setien's options for upcoming fixture.

  • Embattled Celades battles to repair damage caused by Valencia's week of woe Embattled Celades battles to repair damage caused by Valencia's week of woe

    Albert Celades was once used to the high life with Barcelona and Real Madrid - now he is dealing with the misery caused by an abject week for his Valencia team.

    Four days of carnage has left Valencia's Champions League hopes in tatters and their prospects of returning to that competition next season dealt a major blow.

    As a player, Celades was a defensive midfielder who began his career at Camp Nou and later traded loyalties by pulling on the white shirt of Madrid, often playing as a foil to David Beckham.

    His coaching career has included spells as an assistant with Spain and Madrid, before a first head coaching opportunity presented itself at Valencia last September.

    The past week has come as a jolt to the 44-year-old, with a 4-1 thumping by Atalanta in Italy on Wednesday followed by a 3-0 whipping at Real Sociedad on Saturday.

    "We are going through the worst moment of the season, but I don't think that the season is lost," Celades said.

    His immediate task is to ensure the team's morale does not fall away, with their winless run having stretched to five games.

    Although they have slipped to eighth place in LaLiga, Valencia remain within touching distance of the top four.

    "We are not having the same performance away from home as at Mestalla," Celades said.

    "However, there are still a lot of games left in LaLiga and the return leg of the Champions League tie. Our idea is to continue picking up points, although the numbers are there and we have conceded too many goals that have impeded us from being at the top of the standings. We have to fix this as soon as possible."

    Celades feels Valencia were better against Atalanta than the scoreline suggested, even though the Serie A side led by four goals inside an hour and it took a response from Denis Cheryshev to give Los Che any hope for the March 10 second leg at Mestalla.

    Speaking after the Sociedad match, Celades was quoted by Valencia's website as saying: "We came into this one off a tough defeat in the Champions League, which was too heavy for what we saw on the pitch.

    "However, not long ago we had a great game against Atletico Madrid in which we deserved to win.

    "We are struggling to win but, of course, I see myself as being strong enough to turn the situation around."

  • Hazard to miss Madrid's Man City and Barca clashes after suffering fresh ankle blow Hazard to miss Madrid's Man City and Barca clashes after suffering fresh ankle blow

    Eden Hazard is set to miss Real Madrid's crucial clashes against Manchester City and Barcelona after suffering a hairline fracture to his right ankle.

    The Belgium forward limped off in the second half of Los Blancos' 1-0 defeat to Levante on Saturday and received treatment for the injury on the bench.

    Madrid have not said how much time Hazard will miss but reports in Spain suggest another long lay-off meaning the former Chelsea star will not face Manchester City in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first-leg tie, or Barca in a crucial Clasico in LaLiga next weekend.

    A club statement read: "Following the tests carried out today [Sunday] on our player, Eden Hazard, by the Real Madrid medical department, he has been diagnosed with a fracture to his right distal fibula.

    "His recovery will continue to be assessed."

    It marks another blow for Hazard in a debut campaign blighted by injury, the 29-year-old having only returned from another fractured right ankle sustained against Paris Saint-Germain in November last weekend.

    The start of Hazard's Madrid career was delayed by a hamstring problem he suffered in August and the timing of his latest setback could hardly have been worse.

    Madrid's loss to Levante means they have ceded top spot in LaLiga to Barca ahead of the Clasico, while their fight for a 14th European crown restarts in a huge clash with Pep Guardiola's City.

    Speaking after the game, Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane admitted the initial analysis of Hazard was not promising.

    "It doesn't look good," Zidane told reporters at a news conference."It can become weak where you've had an injury. It is a blow, let's see.

    "It's sore now but we'll see tomorrow when we do more tests."

    Hazard has made just 15 appearances for Madrid since joining in a big-money move from Chelsea last July.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.