On Saturday, Barça faces Alavés in a match that, although Ronald Koeman does not want to overlook, will not be a priority, as it falls between the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals and the first leg against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
Here is what Koeman said to the media:
On the importance of Alavés and PSG
For Koeman, “tomorrow’s game is more important than Tuesday’s.” The dutchman wanted to join the “match-to-match” policy and, in fact, he rejected all questions about the French team or Neymar Jr.: “As far as I know he is not an Alavés’ player. That’s for Monday,” he said.
In addition, he has been excited to meet “Pitu” Abelardo again, who was his partner in the center of Barça’s defense in 1994/95 season: “He is a great professional and a great competitor”.
Regarding the possible lineup, Koeman has noted that there won’t be many rotations because there’s not much to change: “We’ll put a team in to win the game. If you win the game, mental fatigue is less. The goal is to earn 3 points and prepare for Tuesday”.
On the injuries and fitness of the team
The Barça manager has again stated the need to have added at least one more player to the “blaugrana” defense, especially in view of the team’s injury report: “For me we needed it, but I respected the decisions of the candidates and the club. We are lacking people in the back”. He added that the lack of players dents the performance of those who play: “We need to be stronger, we have played many matches with the same defense and it is normal to lower the performance”.
In addition to this, the coach has hinted that the squad is not competitive enough once given the injury plague: “We need more competition in some positions. In some positions there is a gap between starters and subs. The team is changing, and young players don’t have quality enough, they need to grow,” Koeman said, adding an exception: “Pedri is a unique case, other players need more time to grow physically and technically.”
Beyond this, Koeman has admitted that although many players have played many minutes, the team is in a good physical tone and has a good mindset. Regarding injuries, he has been blunt: “I am not risking a player for a match. Players have to recover well and have no rush.”
On referees and the possible penalty against Sevilla
“They can make mistakes and no problem, but if you call a foul, the VAR should have corrected the position. It was inside the area.” Koeman has respectfully claimed that it was a mistake but has continued to insist on the injustice of the VAR in some occasions.
On the possible sanction on Gerard Piqué, the coach has merely commented that it is something that does not depend on him and that the player will bear the cost of his words: “He is an experienced player and must measure those things. You have to be careful how things are said,” he concluded.