BARCELONA – FC Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said on Tuesday he would not put his France winger Ousmane Dembele at risk in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 against Olympique Lyonnais, as the Frenchman has yet to completely recover from a muscle injury.
Barcelona is set to host Lyon at Camp Nou stadium on Wednesday, while Dembele’s participation in the match is doubtful, as he sustained a slight hamstring strain in his left leg during his side’s 3-1 La Liga win Saturday over Rayo Vallecano.
“If he will not be fit then he will not be included in the list,” Valverde said at a press conference held at the club’s facilities in the Catalan capital, confirming that the decision is to be made after the training session later in the day.
“Yes, it is a decisive match, but we cannot take a chance to lose a substitution,” the coach added.
Valverde said there is no favored team for Wednesday’s clash and that the match may be extended to extra time if the first leg’s 0-0 draw is any indicator to how the second leg will go.
He paid tribute to the Lyon club, stressing that he and his players will have to respect their rivals.
“(Lyon) has fast and powerful players,” he said, adding: “It is a squad used to taking the initiative in the league (France’s Ligue 1)... Lyon’s play is a thing that cannot be changed from one day to the next. I imagine that they realize the value of scoring an away goal and that they will give it a try.
“This means that there will be surprises and we have to give Olympique Lyonnais the most respect possible because they are a great team and will focus on winning, just like we will,” Valverde added.
He also discussed with the press France and Lyon’s attacking midfielder Nabil Fekir who is ready to play on Wednesday, after he missed the first leg, saying that the player is set to pose a threat to Barcelona’s goal with his finesse and shooting talent.
Valverde called on the fans to give an intense feel at their home pitch, urging them to be passionate during the Champions League game.