Ernesto Valverde acknowledged the importance of Barcelona's 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on his first return to his former club.
Goals from Lionel Messi (36) and Paulinho (90+2) secured all three points at the San Mamés Barria on Saturday where Valverde had coached since 2013.
The result saw Barca move four points clear of second-placed Valencia on the Primera Division standings, and eight ahead of Real Madrid – who play Girona on Sunday.
After the game, Valverde told the club's official website: "It is important to win difficult games. Athletic caused us lots of difficulties.
"They raised the intensity and the ball spent more time closer to our goal than we got it to theirs. But we have shown why our defensive record is so good.”
He added: "We tried to build our confidence by creating chances and kept battling away. Barça set a high standard and want to win by scoring great goals like the first one. But we had to stick together as a team for this win."
“Messi could have scored another goal if the post hadn’t got in the way. But he’s incredible. He can make the difference at any moment. It was a spectacular goal. We’re so lucky that the best player in the world plays for us.”
And on his return to his former club, Valverde said: "Being at San Mamés felt stranger than I’d expected.
"I’m used to seeing Athletic v Barça from the other side. But of course, I’m still delighted with the win today.”