• Boss addressed the media following his side's 1-0 victory over Valencia in the Copa del Rey first-leg semi-final.
  • Valverde plans to make some changes to his line-up when the La Liga giants visit Espanyol on Sunday.

Ernesto Valverde has admitted his concerns over fatigue in his squad ahead of a busy month in which Barcelona will try to book a place in the Copa del Rey final and will also resume their Champions League campaign with a trip to Chelsea.

The Catalan boss addressed the media after his side beat Valencia 1-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday (1 February) thanks to a header from Luis Suarez.

Barcelona will try to use that narrow advantage to go through to the final when they visit the Mestalla on Thursday 8 February.

Four days before the Copa del Rey decider, Valverde's side will take on local rivals Espanyol with hopes of consolidating their lead at the top of the La Liga table, currently sat 11 points ahead of Atletico Madrid after 21 games.

The Barcelona boss has therefore suggested that he will have no choice but to rotate his squad in the derby, hoping to keep his players fresh for the title run-in.

"We're playing a lot of games and getting very little rest in between. It's almost Friday and we have another game on Sunday afternoon. We're going to need make changes and I'll have to have a hard think about them. We have a derby to play. It's an important game, a tense match," Valverde confirmed in the press conference following the 1-0 win over Valencia.

"Yes, [tiredness] it is a concern that all the managers have, the Valencia boss also had it because he had some players out for this game. It is a month with a lot of games. We are going to see if we can handle these things well in order to solve the small problems we may have. Now we have some injured players, let's see if we can recover them and no other players suffer more problems."

Ousmane Dembele, Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Gomes all missed the clash with Valencia due to different fitness issues but Valverde will be hoping to have them back for the first leg of the Champions League last 16 clash against Chelsea on 20 February.

Samuel Umtiti has also recently come back from a two-month spell on the sidelines and the Barcelona boss hailed the importance of his return after the France international produced a remarkable performance to help his side secure a clean-sheet against Valencia.

"He's back and you can see that he's just as good as he was before. It's so good to have such a safe tackler as him in the team, he covers so quickly," Valverde said when asked about the impressive performance of the Barcelona defender.

That clean-sheet could be decisive ahead of the second leg but the Barcelona boss admitted that he would have liked to score more goals against a side which was missing some key players like Gonzalo Guedes, Ezequiel Garay, Geoffrey Kondogbia.

"They were missing players and defended well ... That's possibly the best that any team has defended against us this season. We dominated the game, but they had a plan," Valverde added.

"More than attack, we had to make sure they didn't hit us on the counter. We knew we could score from any of our crosses, and that's how the goal game."

"We'd rather be taking a bigger lead into the second leg ... A draw would be a good result in the second leg but we won't go there with that intention. We lost 1-0 in our quarter final first leg and turned the tie around, so it's all to be decided."

Ernesto Valverde
Ernesto Valverde plan to rotate his squad in the upcoming derby. Getty