Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barca season

May 27, 2019
FC Barcelona’s coach Ernesto Valverde.
FC Barcelona’s coach Ernesto Valverde.

(AP):

A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach. The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semi-finals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where they would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up yesterday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team's woeful end to what had been a great season.

"A month ago, we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago, we were thinking we had a chance at a treble," Valverde said. "And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey."

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination -- that time they squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament's quarter-finals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn't take long after Barcelona's loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

"Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team's coach," Bartomeu said. "This loss was not the coach's fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn't go in, and what counts is how many times you score."

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