Ernesto Valverde doesn’t want Luis Suarez to tread lightly

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde will not encourage striker Luis Suarez to play with any less aggression than usual in tonight’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg (8.30pm) against Valencia despite being one yellow card away from missing the final.

Ernesto Valverde doesn’t want Luis Suarez to tread lightly

Suarez was suspended from last season’s cup final win over Alaves after being sent off late on in the semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid and risks the same fate after picking up two bookings in four appearances in the competition.

The Uruguayan scored the only goal in last week’s first leg at the Nou Camp to give Barca a 1-0 advantage in the tie, and if they see out the game they will make history by becoming the first team to reach five consecutive Cup finals.

“We have talked about Luis’s character before, but the aggression he gives us in attack, in terms of finding space and goals, is very good for us even if it means he sometimes gets the odd card,” said Valverde last night.

“Right now, we’re about to play a semi-final and we’ll do everything we have to win it. Then we’ll start worrying about the future.”

Valverde’s side will arrive having lost only once in 35 games in all competitions since being beaten in both legs of their Spanish Super Cup clash with Real Madrid in August.

However, they needed a late equaliser from defender Gerard Pique to spare their blushes against derby rivals Espanyol — the only team to have beaten them in the meantime — in the league on Sunday.

Lionel Messi was used only as a second-half substitute at the weekend as Valverde made six changes — Valencia boss Marcelino interpreted that as an indication of Barca’s focus on the cup-tie.

He said: “This shows that Barca want to get to a final and not throw the game away, and also that they respect us a lot.”

Valverde is expecting a more progressive approach from Valencia on their own pitch and admits his team is unlikely to be able to rely on its slim advantage alone to progress.

“Each team will be loyal to its style, but Valencia will try to be more aggressive in attack because of the result from the first leg. Both teams will go for it.

“Taking into account the attacking potential of Valencia, more so playing in Mestalla, I have the feeling that to get through, we will have to score.”

Marcelino has urged his team to play with their heads as well as their hearts tonight.

The sides meet in the second leg of their semi-final showdown at the Mestalla tonight with Barca carrying a 1-0 lead into the game courtesy of Luis Suarez’s lone strike at the Nou Camp last week.

Marcelino knows the hosts are up against it if they are to beat the Catalan giants, who last lost in Valencia in March 2008, but is confident they have what it takes to push the runaway LaLiga leaders all the way.

He said: “We are expecting a long game, a very tough game, and hopefully after the 90 minutes we will be able to say that we are in a Copa del Rey final.

“Emotionally, it is going to be an intense game, but we need to play with our heads and our hearts. We have to be clever. If we don’t defend well, we won’t go through. I am asking the fans to help us defend.

“We should be humble because we know that we don’t have a team that can dominate Barcelona for 90 minutes. Our plan is to defend well, but to attack better than in the first leg and get into the final stages with the possibility of going through. I prefer to avoid extra-time.”

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