- Associated Press - Friday, April 26, 2019

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde wants his team to wrap up the Spanish league title this weekend so it can fully concentrate on its European semifinal against Liverpool.

Barcelona can clinch its eighth Liga championship in 11 years on Saturday if it beats Levante at Camp Nou. It can also win the title if second-place Atletico Madrid loses earlier in the day to Valladolid. If Atletico draws, then Barcelona would only need a draw as well.

Barcelona will host Liverpool on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.

“If we win tomorrow, we’ll have the title and that would give us a boost for the match on Wednesday,” Valverde said Friday.

Liverpool is in an intense fight with Manchester City for the Premier League title. Juergen Klopp’s side plays Huddersfield later on Friday, giving it one more day of rest than Barcelona.

“We know that winning the title tomorrow would be very important for the game (against Liverpool), meaning more than the tiredness we could feel,” Valverde said. “There is something in that match that goes beyond just that game. It would make us stronger for the next match.”

Valverde added that he has been preparing for Liverpool since Barcelona beat Manchester United on an aggregate 4-0 score two weeks ago.

“You have things in mind, you have been watching (Liverpool) games, but I want to put that all aside now, given the importance of the match tomorrow,” Valverde said. “I would like the match against Levante to be the culminating point of the league.”

Barcelona is nine points clear of Atletico with four matches remaining and holds the tiebreaker on head-to-head goals.

The defending Spanish champions are also in the Copa del Rey final against Valencia on May 25.

Valverde rested top scorer Lionel Messi for the first hour of Tuesday’s 2-0 win at Alaves. He did not reveal if Messi will rest again against Levante.

Levante is fighting to avoid relegation. It is three points above the drop zone after beating Real Betis 4-0 in its last match.

“My team showed against Betis that it is united, strong and believes in itself,” said Levante coach Paco Lopez.


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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