Valverde desperate to avoid political distraction

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde is desperate to prevent the political turmoil in Spain affect his players at former club Athletic Bilbao this weekend.

The gravity of the situation in Catalonia continues to grow after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament and imposed direct rule on the region.

Thousands took to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the measures, yet Valverde insists he is purely focusing on matters on-the-field.

“The reality is that we have a league game and we will try to win it.” he said.

“It’s impossible to stay informed about the political situation. Yesterday was a busy day, as is today and it’s not over. We’re focusing on ourselves. My responsibility is that my team wins.”

Valverde spent four years in charge of Bilbao before taking over at Barcelona during the summer, yet he has failed to taste victory in all six of his previous trips to the San Mames, as either a player or manager.

“The statistics aren’t really in my favour, but I will try to change them,” added Valverde.

“They are a very strong team at San Mames. Not only now but in years gone by.

“We have to be ready to deal with the pressure. The fans really push the team on and never give up. They have a great spirit. That’s not new.

“Obviously for me it’s a special game. But now I’m a rival and I will try to make sure my team wins.”