Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is taking nothing for granted ahead of his side’s visit to newly-promoted Real Valladolid.
Barca began the defence of their LaLiga title with a 3-0 home win over Alaves and are strong favourites to make it two wins out of two against Valladolid.
However, Valverde is wary of the threat posed by the home side at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla after Sergio Gonzalez’s side secured a return to the top flight via last season’s play-offs.
“Outside of the Camp Nou it’s always more difficult because of the rival’s enthusiasm,” Valverde told a pre-match press conference. “It’s possible that both teams are balanced because there is still the enthusiasm and the joy of the last promotion.”
Valladolid began their season with a goalless draw last week, and Valverde added: “Valladolid were great defensively against Girona and earned a draw. Their play was orderly and the lines were close together.
“I expect it to be a similar game. This time we are playing away from home and it will be more difficult as there will be plenty of enthusiasm in the stadium with the club back in the top flight.”
The newly-laid pitch could also be a concern, with Valverde adding: “I am more worried about the rival and what they can do but I won’t deny that this is something that I have in my head.
“It is not usual to play a game with a new pitch laid four days before and I don’t know whose idea it was. I know from experience that the ball gets stuck and people fall over.”
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic has been linked with a move away from the Nou Camp, but Valverde insists the Croatia international remains a key player in his squad.
“He is a fundamental player for us and I am counting on him due to what he does for us, the importance he had for the team last season was clear,” he said.
“I hope that he stays here.
“I want to have the best players here and he is one of the best. He knows how we play, he is integrated into the team and the club. We are not here to make money from a player, we aim to win and make the trophy room bigger.”
As a product of Barcelona’s academy, Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip knows all about the quality of the opposition his side will face on Saturday, but insists they will not just play defensively.
“We will go for the victory and if we then get a point then it will be good,” Masip said. “Barca always have an obligation to win in all competitions.”