Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has admitted that it was ‘a risk’ for him to rest several first-team in the Copa del Rey clash with Levante.
The decision backfired on Valverde as Barça slid to a shock 2-1 defeat in the opening leg of their Copa del Rey clash, with goals from Erick Cabaco and Borja Mayoral ensuring that a late Philippe Coutinho penalty would be no more than a consolation goal.
Valverde named a much-changed lineup, which included two Barcelona ‘B’ defenders in Chumi and Juan Miranda, as well as handing a debut to Jeison Murillo.
After the game, he declared that rotation was necessary – despite the risk. He said, as quoted by Sport English: “I picked the best team I thought we could pick.
“It’s served us to evaluate players in some tough moments, like in a Primera Division game. I know it’s a risk, but you have to take risks a lot of the time.
“I am happy with Murillo, he has experience and he knows how to approach these type of games. As for the kids, it was a difficult test, but that’s how it is, no?
When asked about the form of goalscorer Coutinho, who had not featured for Barcelona in their last four La Liga matches, Valverde stated: “When Dembele wasn’t playing, everyone was asking me about him,”
“Now, Dembele’s playing and Coutinho’s not and the reverse is happening.
“What the players have to do is work hard to revert the situation. Both of them have played tonight. And if one of them isn’t happy, they have to fight to turn things around. But, come on, one or the other is nearly always playing.
Valverde will be hoping his side can return to winning ways on Sunday, when they host Eibar in La Liga. The second leg of the last-16 tie against Levante follows next weekend, with Barça no doubt confident that they can overturn the deficit.