Valverde 'happy' with ending 2018 on top of La Liga

The Spanish giants restored their three-point lead at the league summit but the manager knows they can hit greater heights in 2019

Ernesto Valverde knows his Barcelona side have room for improvement despite ending 2018 with a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo that keeps them three points clear at the top of LaLiga.

First-half goals from Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi sealed Barca’s latest victory at Camp Nou and restored their cushion over Atletico Madrid, who had won earlier on Saturday.

“It was the objective to end the year as leaders, with the same advantage as we had before this round of matches started, so we are happy,” Valverde was quoted as saying by his club’s official website.

However, the coach recognised his side were below their best in an underwhelming second-half showing that saw Celta have 55 per cent possession, albeit without seriously threatening to pull off a comeback.

“What most satisfies me is to have dominated the first half and generated chances,” Valverde told a news conference.

“If you concede zero goals, it’s the easiest way to win. But it’s not our goal. Our goal is to generate danger.”

Despite the manager’s words, Barcelona ended 2018 with 102 league goals scored, the most among the top five leagues in Europe.  

Lionel Messi also became the only player from the only player in the top five leagues in Europe to score 15 or more goals in the last 11 seasons with his goal on Saturday.

Valverde had words of praise for Dembele, stating: “He is a player who is scoring goals, playing, working. We expect a lot from him. We hope he keeps making good decisions.” 

He also confirmed his players would be given a week off over Christmas, returning to training on December 30, before their La Liga campaign resumes on January 6 with a trip to Getafe.

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