Ernesto Valverde calm over Antoine Griezmann speculation

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde refused to discuss the possibility of signing Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann in the New Year. The Catalans had been hot on the trail of both Philippe Coutinho and Angel di Maria during the dying stages of the summer transfer window, but a deal could not materialise for either player.

Ahead of the Leganes clash, Valverde admired the qualities of Griezmann and revealed that the club have not closed the door on pursuing fresh recruits in January, he said: “Griezmann is a great player, one of the names being talked about but for now I have the players that I have. In the future, we will see. Of course, the club, like all clubs, is open to doing business in the January window, even though we’re happy with what we already have. We’re not going to close the door on anything.”

Barcelona currently hold a comfortable eight-point lead over arch-rivals Real Madrid, and it could potentially become 11 by the end of the weekend with Los Blancos facing a stiff challenge at Atletico Madrid. Meanwhile, the focus will be on Barcelona’s backline with both Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique just a booking away from suspension.

Javier Mascherano suffered a thigh injury on international duty which is likely to keep him out for the best part of one month, but Valverde is confident that Thomas Vermaelen and the club’s B players including David Costas and Jorge Cuenca can do the job if required.

Barca face Real Madrid in the first El Clasico of the La Liga season prior to Christmas Eve, and Valverde’s focus will no doubt be on maintaining the lead to put further pressure on their rivals. Los Blancos dominated the two-legged Spanish Super Cup tie at the start of the campaign, but their recent form has been particularly average at the Bernabeu.