Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman and left back Jordi Alba sat down in front of the press on Monday, a day before taking on PSG in the first leg of the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League at the Camp Nou.
Here’s what Ronald Koeman had to say ahead of the tie against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
On Tuesday’s match
“First of all, we are very excited to play the Champions League matches. We have known for a long time that it will be a very tough tie because they have a very strong team. They are going to be two very interesting and very beautiful matches.”
“Gerard is fine, he has been training with the group for 4 or 5 days. We have good feelings about his physique and I have one more day to decide if he is on the list because he has been out for a while. We will talk about it and decide tomorrow morning.”
On the Centre Backs
“We can put any defense of ours. These defenders have played very good games. They have had their mistakes, which is part of football, and I have no doubt in our boys of knowing how to defend against a strong team like Paris. It will be a tactical match, we will think about where we can dominate and what we need in defense to stop their quality up front “.
On Neymar and his injury
“I think we must always protect these type of players, like Neymar, Messi, Cristiano… because they let us enjoy their quality a lot. And in this aspect the referees have to defend him, but in football there is contact and the players have to figure out when to play one-on-one. The referees have to decide when it is an ugly foul from behind, but football is still a contact sport.”
On Pique and Araujo
“It is true that Araujo has not trained and will not make it to tomorrow’s game. For any player, if he is on the list, he has options to play.”
On the tie up against PSG
“I remember what I said when we got PSG in the draw, I believe in the team and in my players and I was clear about the improvement in the game and the results, since then I think it has been equaled by history and players. We face these two games with great ambition, with improvement and confidence to win an important game against a strong team.”
On PSG missing important players
“For any team it is important to have everyone available. Neymar and Di María are an important loss for Paris, as for us are Ansu Fati, Coutinho, Araujo or Sergi Roberto. You have to live with these problems and have other players prepared. I fear nothing because we trust our players, but respect the contrary at the same time.”
“A large part of Dembélé’s change belongs to the player. He is the one who has to work. The coach has to try to create an environment within the squad, put in the training that is needed. On the physical aspect, not only Ousmane but many other players in the squad have improved, and it is a very important issue to have quality and to exploit. It is important to be physically and mentally well to face the pressure.”
“I don’t know what PSG have in store, we have to see how they come. It’s a two-game tie. If you play the first game away from home, it’s about getting a result, trying to score, which is important, I think this will be their thought as well. But they are a team who want to dominate. We like to have the ball and from there play and create opportunities to score. A clean sheet is very important in tomorrow’s game.
We analyze their strengths and weaknesses, if they press from the top, if they give spaces, these are tactical things which we have to be prepared for. Also their quality with people like Mbappé at the top and his speed, which must be controlled. We have to have good defense for when we lose the ball.”
On if a great match is missing
“No. It seems that every three days we have to take an exam and it is not like that. In all the games we have lost, we have had chances to score and the final result has not been ours and they are things that can happen.”
“It is not a duel between Messi and Mbappé, it is a duel between two teams played on one side by Leo Messi, the best player in the world and whom we need in his best form to win the tie, and almost the same for PSG with Mbappé, he is a very fast player who can complicate things a lot. It will be a beautiful game and these players are to be enjoyed as a football fan.”
On Neymar’s absence
“To see the best game you always have to have the best players on the pitch. You never know how a team lacking a player like Neymar will react. Both teams have significant number of players injured. I hope in a couple of weeks everyone can be there to find out who is the best.”
“I am not in favor of putting someone with a marking only for one player. We know where we can play and where we have free people. As long as we have the ball we have to be well organized for when we lose the ball, it will be a determining aspect for the game.”
“My theme is to prepare the team and the players for an important game. Messi is a Barça player and I have high hopes that he will continue to be a Barça player.”
On Barça’s aspirations
“I don’t see other teams much better than Barça. But it’s not good when you have to change a lot of things in the team and young players come in. We have a great team, they are playing at a very high level. We still have fantastic players and we can beat anyone.”
Jordi Alba also had big things to say ahead of the clash against PSG.
On who the favorites will be going into the tie
“They are people’s opinions, you have to respect them and you will see who is the favorite on the pitch.”
“He is an important piece in the team, with a very important career in recent years, in addition to football because of the atmosphere he creates in the dressing room. The decisions will be made by the coach, but there are important players with less experience than Gerard who are doing very well.”
On the air around Messi and PSG
“If he had it clear, he wouldn’t say whether he is going to stay. He already said it in his day, the intention he had. Today he is 100% committed. From here, hopefully we can win a title and let him decide at the end of the season. What other players or other clubs say, we do not pay attention to in the dressing room. Leo will have the last word.”
On Messi leaving at the end of the season
“The decision he makes will be well thought out and well considered. I have said many times that I am a better player when he is on the field. It is his decision and it will have to be respected, but right now his commitment is at Barça and you see that in every game.”
“I am not going to deceive you. Personally, it is better that players like Ney do not play in the opposite team, it is an important loss for them like Di María, who defensively and offensively contributes a lot. PSG have important players and I am sure that the players who are going to play in their place will have the same or similar level. It will be a disputed tie that will be decided by small details. We also have significant injuries but the people who are entering are doing well.”
“The idea of the coach has always been the same. Lots of new players and faces, and it’s not easy. We are the same players that started this offseason, and now we are in a good dynamic. If we are not 100%, any team can beat us. We are doing a great job as a team and we have to keep trying to play well, and keep winning which is what matters, and win as many titles as possible.”
On if it is a special match
“It is very important but I do not think it is special. It is a great rival, it is true that we made a great comeback last time but it is a different game and a different tie, we will not have our fans but we will try to make a great match”.
On the public
“The best thing is to play the second leg at home, but now without an audience it is more or less the same. For me it is important and I like to play the second leg at home, but now the aspects are equal and we will see who is the best “.
On the objectives for the season
“We are alive in all competitions. It is true that in the league the difference is quite large but we have been doing good in the league for the last two months. In the Cup, the first leg result was unfavorable but we will prepare well for the second leg when we play in our field. In the Champions League we are there as well, it will be a very tight tie. We know how difficult it is. The level is very tight in all the teams. The vision of the team and what we all have to do is to try to get Barça to the top and hopefully it will be so”.
“The idea of PSG is the same as in 2017. It is true that very important players with a lot of quality have come. They have reinforced quite well and it is a team to take into account in all competitions, especially in the Champions League. Despite the injuries, it will be a very difficult game.”
On the argument to eliminate PSG
“We have to be a team, attack everyone and take advantage of the chances. The importance of the team will be vital.”