Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was glad his side stayed focused on beating Eibar to get their La Liga campaign back on track rather than let minds drift towards next week’s showdown with Chelsea.
Valverde resisted the temptation to rest key men ahead of the Champions League last-16 first leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
Captain Andres Iniesta started in midfield, with Brazilian Philippe Coutinho, ineligible for the European tie, on the bench.
Barcelona’s industry was rewarded with a 2-0 win at Ipurua, where Luis Suarez scored a well-crafted early goal before Jordi Alba added a late second after both Eibar winger Fabian Orellana and manager Jose Luis Mendilibar had been sent off.
“This match was very important for us after two draws in the league,” Valverde said afterwards, quoted in the Spanish media.
“I don’t care much about Chelsea, our objective was to win again. In Ipurua everybody suffers, nobody wins easy, but Tuesday is another story.”
Highlights from La Liga as Eibar hosted league leaders Barcelona
Barcelona’s win saw them equal a club record of 31 matches unbeaten in La Liga, which had been set under Pep Guardiola during the 2010/11 campaign.
Valverde said: “Eibar pushed us very hard and were at a very high level, and I attribute our suffering to that.
“They were on an incredible streak of their own so the win has double merit.
“We are delighted with how things are going and that means we are doing something right, now we must continue.”
Mendilibar had been taking charge of his 100th LaLiga game with Eibar, but it ended with him sent to the stands not long after Orellana’s red card after 66 minutes, which came following a second yellow for punching the ball away.
The Eibar manager was incensed after Suarez was then not cautioned for kicking the ball away after an offside flag, and took his protests to both the fourth official and referee Alejandro Hernandez.
Valverde looked to play down the incident on the touchline.
“Everything can be proved wrong, but we must have respect for the decisions of the referees,” he said.
“They make decisions in a moment, and whether that is wrong or not is just the way things are in football.”