Soccer: Valverde stays grounded despite Barca’s flying start
MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde says Spain's Liga title race remains wide open despite his side's imperious start to the season.
Their 2-1 victory over Sevilla on Saturday means they have taken 31 points from a possible 33 available this season, only failing to win when they drew 1-1 away to Atletico Madrid last month.
They currently have an 11-point advantage over rivals Real Madrid, who host Las Palmas on Sunday, while Valencia, their nearest rivals, remain four points back.
Valverde, however, is refusing to get carried away.
“We’re top, and that means we’re not missing anything. We go into the international break happy and after that we have a very tough schedule,” he said.
“We need to continue strong as we are and not look back. We just need to focus on ourselves.”
Valverde also said that the current political tension in Catalonia is not impacting on his players.
There were banners in support of the politicians who have been arrested following last month's banned independence referendum, while there were also cries of "Freedom" from fans heard throughout the match.
“You can see it’s not distracting us,” Valverde said.
“There’s been a lot of questions but people who come to the Nou Camp come to express themselves peaceably and that’s what they do. They supported us and we played for them today.”
All eyes were on Lionel Messi as he made his 600th appearance for the club.
For once, however, it was not the mercurial Argentine that was his side’s hero as Paco Alcacer netted twice.
Captain Andres Iniesta, however, was full of praise for Messi and his achievement, suggesting many more appearances are on the way.
“It’s very hard to get to those numbers. I’m sure that the number 600 is much lower than the number he will end up with,” Iniesta said. “I just hope that they come accompanied by trophies.”
(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Toby Davis)