Ernesto Valverde says Paco Alcacer proved he is a goalscorer as the forward made the most of a rare opportunity to start against Sevilla in La Liga. Alcacer, starting in Spain's top flight for the first time since the match against Real Betis on the opening day of the season, scored twice at Camp Nou on Saturday.

Those goals gave Barca a valuable 2-1 victory which ensures it goes into the international break with a four-point lead over closest challenger Valencia, having won 10 and drawn one of its first 11 league games.

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"He got two important goals and we hope that they give him the confidence that strikers need," Valverde said at his post-match media conference.

'Great effort'

"We are happy with him and for the team. He has not played a lot and he has shown that he is a goalscorer and we are happy. I have a strong side here and anyone can come in and score. It is to the credit of the player that he can come in with the pressure on and perform."

Alcacer was denied the chance of a hat-trick, though, as he was immediately substituted by Valverde after his 65th-minute winner. "He was having a very good game but also looked tired," explained Valverde. "The [wide] position he was playing in was very demanding. He is a player who does not play too much and was making a great effort."

'Difficult fixture list'

Barca's win means it is a huge 11 points clear of champion Real Madrid, which hosts Las Palmas on Sunday in its game in hand. Valverde added: "At the moment we are leaders, we are not making mistakes and we will go into this international break in good spirits. We have a difficult fixture list ahead and to continue where we are then we have to be strong."

Barca's fine form comes amid a time of intense political uncertainty in Catalonia, with the region now under direct rule from Spain after a disputed independence referendum. "What we are seeing is that it does not affect us," said Valverde. "People come to the Camp Nou to express themselves freely in a peaceful way and above all to support the team. We focus on playing and winning."