Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde admits Paco Alcacer’s injury is a “setback” ahead of next week’s Clasico against Real Madrid.
Barca extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to six points with a comfortable 4-0 defeat of Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday night, hitting the woodwork five times and seeing Lionel Messi miss from the penalty spot.
It was as straightforward an assignment as they could have hoped for ahead of facing their biggest rivals, who lie 11 points back with a game in hand, but the first-half substitution of Alcacer took the sheen off.
The forward suffered a leg problem and has been ruled out for three weeks, reducing Valverde’s options before Sunday’s Bernabeu trip.
“I t’s a setback that we didn’t expect. Overall the game turned out well but’s a real shame about Paco,” he told Movistar.
“But we’re going into (the Clasico) happy. We have a week to prepare for the game and the best way to approach the Madrid match was to put in the kind of performance we had today, secure three points and boost confidence and morale.
“We are in good shape but we know that we are in for a complicated game against a huge rival. We’ll prepare for it well because we are determined to put in a good performance.”
With Barca taking advantage of Real’s participation in the FIFA Club World Cup, pundits are suggesting an away win in Madrid could effectively settle the title before the winter break.
Valverde has no time for such claims, pointing to Atletico Madrid in second place as evidence of the varied challenges at hand.
“People mention the advantage we have over Real Madrid but they forget that Atletico are only six points behind us,” he said.
“We have it pretty clear in our minds that this is a long competition. No team sews up the league in the first round of games.”
The 53-year-old also noted his side’s increasingly remarkable tendency to strike the woodwork after five more shots hit the frame of the goal against Depor.
Luis Suarez and Paulinho managed two close-range finishes apiece but the tally could easily have been into humiliation territory but for slender margins.
Barca have hit the woodwork 26 times already this term, with Messi responsible for 14 of those after three more unsuccessful attempts.
“If we deliberately tried to hit the post, we wouldn’t get to that figure,” said Valverde.
“Fortunately, apart from hitting the post we’re also scoring goals. That means we are regularly close to the goal and in position to score and that’s good.”