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Koeman: “The game against Benfica is not decisive”

Ronald Koeman during a press conference before a Champions League game / FC BARCELONA

After a convincing 3-0 win against Levante, Ronald Koeman and Ronald Araújo spoke to the press before facing Benfica in the Champions League.

On Wednesday at 21:00 local time, FC Barcelona will face Portuguese powerhouse SL Benfica at the Estádio da Luz. This is the second game that both of these teams play in this season’s Champions League group stage. Barça currently sits bottom of the group after a disappointing 0-3 loss against Bayern Munich at home, whereas Benfica drew its first game 0-0 against Dynamo Kyiv.

Shortly before the start of the press conference, the team news for the game was released by the club. The biggest news is the inclusion of Pedri and Sergi Roberto, who have been given the medical green light. Although Jordi Alba did participate in this morning’s training session, he’s not ready to rejoin the squad yet.

Defender Ronald Araújo (22) was the first to appear in front of the journalists. He recently saved a point for Barça by scoring the 1-1 against Granada in the last minute of the game.

About fellow Uruguayan Darwin Núñez, Benfica’s striker:

“He is a great friend and a great striker, but I’m hoping for the best for us tomorrow.”

About the return of his teammate and friend, Ansu Fati:

“The celebration just came to us after the goal, we had nothing prepared. I’m very happy for him, it was not an easy year for him, thank God he was able to make his return. He scored an important and beautiful goal, but we have to be patient.”

“Before starting the game I told him to have confidence, I told him that everything would be fine. I encouraged him, he is a great player and he knows what he has to do. I’m happy for him.”

About being an important part of the defence:

“We don’t know tomorrow’s team yet, but I’m happy about the start of the season, I worked hard to be here, I’m happy about the first few games, but this is just the beginning. I know about the responsibility of being at this club and wearing this badge. This is very big, I have to keep working to be ready when I have to play.”

About the team’s goals and aspirations:

“To win everything, we are Barça and we have to aspire to win all the titles. We can’t just see what happens, we have to go for it and try to win as many titles as we can.”

“It’s important to keep winning points in La Liga, we played a great game, we had a lot of chances, we were able to increase the scoreline, and that gives us more encouragement for important games like the one we have tomorrow and on Saturday.”

About the game against Benfica:

“It’s an important game against a great opponent, but we’re going there to win. We’ve just had a great game last weekend and I think that’s the way to go. We have to go for the three points.”

About playing as a striker:

“It’s true that I started as a striker at Huracán de Rivera and came to Montevideo sometimes playing from in behind the striker. But later, Sergio Cabrera put me back in defence because he was missing a defender and it turned out well, and today I enjoy being a defender.”

After Araújo was done answering all the questions, it was head coach Ronald Koeman‘s turn.

About the game against Benfica:

“I don’t know if they’re the team in the best form, but we know they’re a strong team, I have the experience of knowing how great the club is. It will be a nice match, we need to get a good result, and with two different playing styles, I think we can expect an interesting match.”

“The game is not decisive, it’s only the second game out of six, so it’s impossible to be decisive.”

“We’re expecting a difficult game, I know the atmosphere there and it can encourage the home team a lot. It’s not a team that opens the field much, that leaves many spaces, because the Portuguese mentality is to control the game and use their quality to surprise the opponent.”

“We have to try to avoid their quick transitions, we know that they’re dangerous in counterattacks, that’s why it’s important to have the ball and if we lose it, to be well organized in defence.”

“It’s always good to have respect for the opponent, but when the referee blows his whistle, you have to lose this respect. They’re playing at home and they’ll have the environment in their favour, they’ll try to attack and to win. It’s not a team that plays in order not to lose. And we have the same intention whether playing at home or away, to take control of the game and win.”

“I don’t like to speak about individual players, but they have very experienced players like Otamendi and Vertonghen in defence, and Gedson up front, who is very fast.”

About having the same lineup as last game:

“The most important thing is to plan for the game. You have to take the opponent into account and also look at the young people and take into account the physical issues. Playing five games in 12 days is a lot for any player. We have to look at where we can have more freshness and with whom we can obtain better results.”

About the game against Levante last weekend:

“We were very good without the ball, we didn’t give space to the opponent, we didn’t let him play. We always try to play like this, but sometimes it just works out better and it also depends on the opponent. It also depends on our attitude. We always have the intention to play like this.”

“Barça always plays to win the game. Our intention is to have control, to have the ball and look for spaces with the players we have. The other day we pretty much played without a right-winger. There is a lack of wingers, so you have to fill the middle of the field with players. You can press the opponent with any system, the system is not the most important thing, but what we want is to press the opponent when we can.”

About Ansu Fati’s return and the possibility of him being called up for the national team:

“I don’t know about this because I’m not the one who picks that squad. As I said the other day, he still has a long way to go, but I think it was a great day. He played 15 minutes and scored the third goal, it was perfect. I can only say that he has been off the pitch for 10 months, that he has trained for two weeks with the group and has played 15 minutes.”

“The player was very tired yesterday, also because of the impact it had on him because of the amount of time he couldn’t play, because of the goal, his family in the stands… Today he trained well, but it depends on the way he’s doing, we’ll see how many minutes he’ll play.”

About having a meeting with president Joan Laporta today:

“I haven’t seen the president yet, but I’m sure we’ll see each other on the plane this afternoon.”

About Luuk de Jong:

“We signed Luuk at the last minute to strengthen us in attack, and also because we had attackers with injuries. He’s a player who gives us a lot, he is different from the other players we have. The other day he did well, he scored a goal and has the experience of playing in Europe.”

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