Ernesto Valverde: Neymar situation affected Barcelona

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has admitted that the Catalan giants were affected in the early part of the campaign due to the Neymar transfer saga.

The Brazil international sealed a world-record €222m move to Paris Saint-Germain in early August, and shortly after, the Spanish outfit suffered a damaging 5-1 Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid across two legs.

Speaking prior to Barca's Copa del Rey game against third-tier Real Murcia, Valverde reflected on the turbulent days in the early part of his reign, he said: "I think everyone has their opinion. It is true that at those moments the situation really did us a bit of harm. The environment as well. There was a lot of noise around the club. But I just focus on what happens on the field, that's my job. Everything can affect that situation but I am just concerned about what happens on the field."

Meanwhile, Valverde confirmed that Luis Suarez would be one of the many first-team players, who could be offered a much-needed rest, he said: "He is going to rest on Tuesday. He is not selected and that will be good for him. The Uruguay international has been a hit and miss this term with just three goals across all competitions, and he recently cut a frustrated figure after he was substituted in the 2-0 triumph over Malaga without scoring.

Despite Suarez's patchy form, Barcelona are five points clear of reigning champions Real Madrid at the top of the table - with Lionel Messi playing to their best of his abilities as usual. With no Neymar around, the Argentine has had to do the extra bit in the forward department, and he has not disappointed with 11 goals in just nine La Liga outings. Barcelona do not face Real Madrid until the final league game prior to the winter break, and they have plenty of matches in between to try and extend their advantage over their arch-rivals.