?Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has admitted that last season’s shocking defeat against Liverpool in the Champions League had a knock-on effect for the rest of the season – blaming the result at Anfield for losing the Copa del Rey final.
Barça famously threw away a three-goal lead from the first leg of their Champions League semi-final to get knocked out of the competition, where Liverpool went on to win the cup against Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
In an honest interview with Barcelona’s official website, first-team manager Valverde explained that he feels his side still hadn’t got over the match by the time the Copa del Rey final with Valencia came about at the end of the season.
“Until Liverpool, we were having an incredible Champions League,” Valverde said. “At Anfield, we had chances but they scored early on and psychologically we started worrying that what happened in Rome might happen again.
“There was a moment of weakness and we paid for it. It was one of the toughest moments of the year. We must admit that the hit we took in Liverpool meant our morale was down going into the cup final. If we’d won against Liverpool, we’d have won the cup final too.”
Barcelona missed out on the chance to win the domestic double last year after first-half goals from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo put the game out of sight in the Copa del Rey final – Lionel Messi’s second-half strike was little more than a consolation.
While Barcelona’s 2019 will largely be remembered for one of the biggest upsets in Champions League history, Valverde has also been looking at some of the positives ahead of the new year.
“We won the last two leagues by a considerable margin, and that is something I view as a major success,” he added. “La Liga is usually much tighter with very little distance between teams.
“So, the way we won the last two leagues was not the normal way things happen. When it happens more than once, people start thinking that’s the norm.
“This year (2019/20) is tighter than other years. It’s harder to win games. Next year we need to be more on top of certain key moments, and we especially need to be careful not to leak two goals in a matter of minutes.”
For more from Ben Carter, follow him on Twitter!