Own goals & clean sheets: Valverde's pragmatism proving to be perfect tonic for Barcelona

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Ernesto Valverde Barcelona
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The Blaugrana beat Sporting CP in Lisbon by a single goal to carry on their impressive run which has been built on firm foundations in the defence

Yet more momentum for Barcelona. The Catalan club won their eighth match in a row with victory away to Sporting CP in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Since losing the Spanish Supercopa to Real Madrid in August, it has been a spectacular start to the season for Ernesto Valverde's side.

Away to Girona at the weekend, Barca won 3-0 in a success that featured two own goals. And there was another one in Portugal as Sebastian Coates put past his own goalkeeper four minutes into the second half. It turned out to be the winner.

Barcelona 1/8 to score first v Las Palmas

The Catalans' new-found defensive discipline is a big boost and, at the Jose Alvalade, it meant one goal was enough. But it is nothing new. Since shipping five over two legs to Madrid in the Supercopa, Barca have now conceded just twice in eight matches.

One of those goals was a wonder strike by Gaku Shibasaki in Barca's hard-fought 2-1 win at Getafe recently, while the other came in a comprehensive 6-1 victory at home to Eibar, with Sergi Enrich converting after the home side had taken a 3-0 lead. 

Sporting Barca

There is no doubt Valverde is building a Barca side on firm foundations. On Tuesday, the former Athletic Club coach opted for a 4-4-2 formation and the system gave more protection to the back line, even if Barca were a little predictable in attack at times.

With all the quality he has at his disposal in the final third, however, including the brilliance of Lionel Messi and the creativity of Andres Iniesta, Valverde can afford to tighten things up elsewhere - and the approach has paid dividends so far.

Barca's pressing has been excellent this season, with even Messi and Luis Suarez dropping deep to lend a hand, while there has been more help for Sergio Busquets in midfield. In addition, Nelson Semedo has impressed at right-back since signing from Benfica in the summer and Jordi Alba looks happy again after ending up on bad terms with Luis Enrique. 

Sergio Busquets Luis SuarezBarcelona

Barcelona celebrate

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"The coach is managing the squad to perfection," Alba said of Valverde after the win in Girona. "We are all getting a chance to play. He is working with us very well. We are responding to his methods and, while there is a lot of football to be played, I feel as though everyone has a positive feeling."

That is good news after some tension at the end of Luis Enrique's reign and Valverde's strong start is the perfect tonic following what was a troublesome summer for the Catalan club. After all the fallouts concerning Neymar and the Barca board, the club can concentrate on football again - and they have a coach who is working with intelligence to make this team as strong as possible.

So, after eight games, eight wins and only two goals conceded, it may not always be pretty from Valverde's Barca, but it has certainly been effective.