Valverde calls for 'respect' as Barcelona makes early dash to Eibar

Ernesto Valverde took his Barcelona team out of the city on Thursday to avoid political disruption ahead of the La Liga game with Eibar.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said: "I don't want to get too far into the things that are going on. They (Catalonia problems) are issues that have been going on for years."   -  Getty Images

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde issued an appeal for calm as his team made an early dash to Eibar to avoid more possible protests in its home city.

Violent scenes broke out in Barcelona at the start of the week after nine Catalan political leaders were dealt long prison sentences for their roles in the region's 2017 referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

Barcelona's main airport was briefly closed on Tuesday due to the tension, with Spanish league officials later suggesting the El Clasico with Real Madrid next week could be moved from Camp Nou to the Santiago Bernabeu.

READ| LaLiga wants El Clasico at Madrid amid Catalonia unrest

Talk around that match dominated Valverde's media conference on Thursday, which had been designated to preview this Saturday's game against Eibar.

It emerged that Barca would be leaving on Thursday to make the trip to the Basque Country, rather than departing on Friday as would normally be the case.

"Tomorrow there could be things going on, protests in Barcelona," Valverde said. "There could be travel issues and we have to be there for the game. It's Saturday at 1pm and we thought this was the best option."

Valverde grew up in the Basque region and played for Athletic Bilbao for six years.

He is no stranger to tense political climates surrounding autonomy given that background, but regarding events in Catalonia he said: "I don't want to get too far into the things that are going on. They are issues that have been going on for years.

"What's happened recently is not habitual. We want people to be able to express themselves with the maximum level of freedom.

"Everyone has to respect each other and maybe that hasn't been there the last few days."

He added: "At this time I think things need to be done in the political world so that there’s understanding. Obviously there are things you don't like to see and we hope that's a one-time thing, and that's it."

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Valverde should be more comfortable once Barcelona is out of the city and he can focus on the Eibar game, an important fixture for the club given its mixed start to the campaign.

It sits second in La Liga, two points behind Real Madrid, and has struggled at times over its opening eight games, in which it has suffered two losses.

Looking ahead to the Eibar trip, Valverde said: "These games are important because we're not at top of the table and we need three points.

"We did have a bit of a tough stretch and we reacted well to it. Sometimes you don't play well but you win anyway and you expect the team to react and that's what we've done in recent years.

"We would like to be in first place but we're not because we tripped up in a few games."

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