Valverde steers clear of Barcelona yellow card controversy

Ernesto Valverde insisted claims Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba tried to get booked in Barcelona's rout of Girona were a matter for the referee.

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez   -  Getty Images

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde refused to be drawn on claims Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez deliberately sought bookings during the closing stages of Saturday's 6-1 win over Girona.

Suarez netted a hat-trick, Lionel Messi scored a brilliant brace and record signing Philippe Coutinho opened his LaLiga account with a blistering long-ranger as Barca found an emphatic response to Portu's third-minute opener.

But it was the Uruguay striker's actions in the closing minutes that threatened to take attention away from his earlier heroics, as he committed a succession of clumsy fouls.

Some observers alleged Suarez was trying to secure a yellow card that would have resulted in a suspension for Thursday's trip to Las Palmas, clearing his disciplinary slate for Atletico Madrid's crunch visit to Camp Nou next weekend.

Referee Javier Alberola showed leniency with Suarez but Spain left-back Alba will miss the Las Palmas game after he was carded for bringing down Pablo Maffeo.

Asked about the events during the final minutes, Valverde said: "They are moments of the game and the referee decides.

"I have nothing to say about that. If we have a setback due to an accumulation of bookings, another player will play. We'll decide what we do."

Valverde started Messi, Suarez, Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele together for the first time and he was buoyed by the efforts of this season's two blockbusting signings.

"When a player scores as Coutinho did he gains more and more confidence, which is what a player is always looking for," he added.

"They are players who have to help us and who are already doing it, each with their own characteristics.

"Dembele has a more extreme profile, he brings more depth [to Barcelona's play] but he has had problems with injuries and skipped that period of adaptation. That's why he's still getting used to the team.

"Coutinho plays very well in the inside game. I think both have taken a step forward today. "

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