Ernesto Valverde believes Barcelona’s opponents ‘enjoy’ suffering at the hands of Lionel Messi.
Messi scored another hat-trick during Barca’s 4-1 win away at Real Betis on Sunday, taking his tally to 39 goals in 37 games so far this season, including 10 in his last eight.
Real Betis give Messi a standing ovation: four key things to know…
- Once again, Messi has been in red-hot form this season, scoring 39 goals in 37 games so far for Barcelona.
- The 31-year-old bagged his fourth hat-trick of the season during Barca’s 4-1 win over Real Betis on Sunday.
- Messi’s performance and quality of goals caused the Betis support to give him a standing ovation.
- Manager, Valverde, believes opposition fans enjoy suffering at the Argentine’s hands.
His third goal on Sunday was an exquisite chip off the crossbar from the edge of the box which not only had the travelling Barcelona fans bowing down to him, but also had the entire Benito Villamarin Stadium on its feet in appreciation of the Argentine ace.
And speaking in his post-match press conference, Valverde seemed less-than surprised at the Betis fans, even suggesting opposition supporters enjoy the show Messi puts on, regardless of what damage it does to their own team.
“Our opponents suffer because of Messi, but they also enjoy him,” Valverde explained.
“His match tonight was extraordinary, he’s scored three goals and also made a fourth.
“The public has recognised his talent, they are enjoying seeing him in his prime and they respect him for the player he is.”
Valverde was also pleased with the level of his side’s performance, having just come off a week of intense Champions League action.
“We came from an intense match in the week,” he admitted. “We pushed hard and lived dangerously, we knew they were going to press us and take the ball for long periods.
“They played in an uncontrolled way, they took risks and we were a threat every time we crossed the halfway line.”
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Valverde calls for caution in La Liga title race
Barca’s win over Real Betis came just a day after second-placed Atletico Madrid fell to a 2-0 defeat away at Athletic Bilbao, leaving the Blaugrana 10 points clear at the top of La Liga.
This has led to many declaring the Spanish title race as finished but Valverde has called for caution from his players, despite admitting Sunday was an ‘important step’.
“Today was a vital match, especially after Atletico [Madrid’s]’s defeat,” he confirmed. “We’ve taken an important step, but we have to be cautious.
“It’s a league and we have to be careful because there is room for teams to catch up, we have to keep going.”
Barca host Catalan rivals Espanyol in their next game on March 30.