Valverde: Barcelona away goal not definitive for progression
Lionel Messi may have given Barcelona a crucial away goal at Chelsea, but Ernesto Valverde says the last-16 tie remains in the balance.
Ernesto Valverde believes Barcelona's away goal in a 1-1 Champions League draw at Chelsea is not a "definitive" sign the LaLiga team will progress to the quarter-finals.
Willian's goal looked set to give the Premier League champions a narrow lead to take into the second leg of the last-16 tie.
But when Andreas Christensen's sloppy pass to Cesc Fabregas let the visitors in, Andres Iniesta squared for Lionel Messi to tuck home his first goal in nine appearances against the Blues.
And while Valverde conceded Messi's strike was a big moment in the context of the tie, he does not think it necessarily means Barca will be going through.
"The equaliser was very important, scoring here," Valverde told a post-match news conference. "They might be happy with the result and we have to be respectful with their style of play.
"They didn't make as many passes as us, but they pressed high and made it difficult for us. The away goal isn't definitive but it is important.
"We make it a very positive thing. It was a clash of styles. We tried to control the game. We had a lot of possession and tried to get close to the goal. They tried to get us on the counter.
"We had a lack of quality in the final third. There was a lot of congestion and they defended well. Willian hit the post a couple of times. We lacked clear-cut chances.
"But we managed to get an error out of them and get the equaliser and it is a good result in the end."
Iniesta: "Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe and in general we played well. The second leg will also be a tough contest" #ChelseaBarça pic.twitter.com/B1keQ86g7e
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 20, 2018
Valverde opted to leave Ousmane Dembele as an unused substitute, only making two of his three changes, but the Barcelona coach defended the selection of Paulinho in a midfield four.
"When I went to choose the team I had to think about the best way to play, as much as having to choose Paulinho and having [Aleix] Vidal to come on," Valverde said.
"I made that decision and be respectful of the way they play. [Paulinho] had a chance in the first half but missed."