ATHENS – FC Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said on Monday that he was excited to be back in the Greek capital for a Champions League group stage match against Olympiacos, a team he managed for three years.
Valverde expressed gratitude for the warm reception he received at the club’s Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
“It’s emotional to be back in Athens for what it means to me. They were three wonderful years where I felt respected by everyone, even my opponents, and I am looking forward to a wonderful atmosphere,” Valverde said at the pre-match press conference.
Regarding doubts about the Barcelona defense, Valverde said that team doctors gave the green light for Belgian center-back Thomas Vermaelen to return.
The coach said he was also hopeful that Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano, who is recovering from a foot infection, would be fit for Tuesday’s game.
He predicted that Olympiacos would take a less defensive approach than in their 3-1 loss to Barcelona at Camp Nou earlier this month.
Forward Gerard Deulofeu, asked about Valverde’s decision to leave him on the bench for Sunday’s 2-0 away win over Athletic Bilbao, said that he was aware of the quality of Barcelona and that the coach has many good options in choosing a line-up.