New Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde wants to start his reign as Barca coach in the best way possible, by beating Real Madrid.
Valverde said his first goal was to get ready for a trio of “clasico” matches coming over the next few months.
“It makes the challenge we have ahead of us even bigger,” Valverde said about Barcelona’s friendly against Madrid in Miami on July 29 before the curtain-raising Spanish Super Cup in August.
“I just arrived, and I still have to think about everything, but it is important that the players find their form in the warm-up matches before the Super Cup,” Valverde said at his first news conference near Camp Nou.
“We have a summer tour with games against tough teams, and the idea is to get ready for the Super Cup.”
The former Athletic Bilbao manager will be charged with reinvigorating a side that boasts one of the world’s most talented attacks in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, but finished last season behind Madrid in the Spanish league and was knocked out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals.
Valverde seems the perfect fit for Barcelona, given his knowledge of the club as a former player under coach Johan Cruyff in the 1980s and his experience as a well-traveled manager.
“I know that the bar has been set very high,” Valverde said.
“Barcelona has had great coaches. I think about Luis Enrique, (Pep) Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Cruyff. I know the demands of this club and the challenge I face.”
While Valverde said he would “adapt” to Barcelona’s ball-possession style forged under Cruyff and perfected by Guardiola, his Bilbao sides displayed the intensity in pressuring up the field that Barcelona lacked last season.
Your first chance to see Valverde and Barcelona in action will be during their USA preseason tour where they will meet the Europa League winners (Manchester United) and the two Champions League finalists (Juventus, and Real Madrid).
Barcelona US Tour matches
July 22: Barcelona vs. Juventus – East Rutherford, New Jersey (MetLife Stadium) – Buy Barcelona v Juventus Tickets
July 26: Manchester United vs. Barcelona – Landover, Maryland (FedEx Field) – Buy Man United v Barcelona Tickets
July 29: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona – Miami (Hard Rock Stadium) – Buy Real Madrid v Barcelona Tickets