‘Everyone always has to earn their place’ – Valverde challenges Dembele to prove his worth at Barcelona

The Barca boss has thrown down the gauntlet to the France striker after he was a notable absentee from the squad at the weekend

Ernesto Valverde has challenged Ousmane Dembele to earn his place in the Barcelona team after the forward was surprisingly left out against Levante.

Dembele was not part of Valverde’s squad for Saturday’s shock 3-1 loss in La Liga, despite being available again after serving a two-game suspension.

Barca let slip a one-goal lead as they conceded three times in the space of seven minutes in the second half to suffer a third league defeat of the season.

Their hopes of a recovery were not aided by the loss of Luis Suarez to a calf injury before the interval.

The presence of Dembele on the bench may have helped Valverde at the weekend, though the Blaugrana boss has been adamant the France international must show he deserves to be regularly involved.

“Everyone always has to earn their place – Dembele has been no exception,” Valverde told the media ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League game against Slavia Prague.

“When he plays, he can stay in that position [if he plays well], as happens to Ansu [Fati], Luis [Suarez], [Antoine] Griezmann or [Gerard] Pique.

“When you have your chance, you will have to try to stay [in the team].”

Valverde was also questioned over the future of Riqui Puig amid reports the midfielder may push to leave in January to get first-team football – he has been yet to feature for Barca so far this season.

“I don’t know what can happen in the next transfer window – there has been still time,” Valverde said when asked about the rumours the 20-year-old has been considering his future at Camp Nou.

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“We have a lot of midfielders. With his talent, it has been clear he will play at Barca. What we do not know has been when.”

Dembele may have a chance to impress in midweek after being recalled to the squad for the clash with Slavia Prague, with Suarez missing out with that injury sustained at the weekend.

Samuel Umtiti has also been included Valverde’s 18-man squad. The France defender was only able to make his first appearance of the campaign in October due to a persistent knee injury before suffering a foot problem that has kept him out for the past fortnight.



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