New Barca coach Valverde takes aim at Real

Jun 1, 2017 - 1:10 PM Ernesto Valverde has signed his two-year contract with Barcelona and declared that he wants to start his tenure at the Nou Camp in the best way possible, by beating Real Madrid.

Shortly after officially becoming Barcelona's 57th coach on Thursday, Valverde said his first goal was to get ready for a trio of "clasico" matches coming over the next few months.

"It makes the challenge we have ahead of us even bigger," Valverde said about Barcelona's friendly against Madrid in Miami on July 29 before the curtain-raising Spanish Super Cup in August.

"I just arrived, and I still have to think about everything, but it is important that the players find their form in the warm-up matches before the Super Cup," Valverde said at his first news conference near Camp Nou.

"We have a summer tour with games against tough teams, and the idea is to get ready for the Super Cup."

The 53-year-old Valverde will be charged with reinvigorating a side that boasts one of the world's most talented attacks in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, but finished last season behind Madrid in the Spanish La Liga.

Barcelona lost in the quarterfinals of Europe's top-tier Champions League to Juventus, who Madrid will take on in Saturday's final in Cardif.

Barcelona announced on Monday that Valverde had agreed to a two-year contract with an option for a third season.

Valverde seems the perfect fit for Barcelona, given his knowledge of the club as a former player under coach Johan Cruyff in the 1980s and his experience as a well-travelled manager.

He arrives after four noteworthy seasons at Athletic Bilbao.

Having also coached successfully at Valencia, Villarreal, Espanyol and Greek club Olympiacos, Valverde has long been considered one of Spain's sharpest soccer minds.

His serious, even-keeled demeanor should help him handle the high-pressure atmosphere surrounding Barcelona that left Luis Enrique in need of a long break.

"I know that the bar has been set very high," Valverde said.

"Barcelona has had great coaches. I think about Luis Enrique, (Pep) Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Cruyff.

"I know the demands of this club and the challenge I face."

While Valverde said he would "adapt" to Barcelona's ball-possession style forged under Cruyff and perfected by Guardiola, his Bilbao sides displayed the intensity in pressuring up the field that Barcelona lacked last season.

Valverde has also proven to get the most out of his players, something that bodes well for a Barcelona youth program that has lost its weight on the first team.

He said he plans to "have a fluid relationship" with the reserve team.

Source: AAP

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