Ahead of Barcelona’s trip to the Benito Villamarín stadium to face Real Betis in matchday 21 of La Liga, Ronald Koeman spoke to the press about the improvement of Barça’s physical state as well as the extremely congested schedule, among other things.
Here is what Koeman had to say:
On visiting Betis after the cup run
Seeing ourselves, it is a difficult moment. We have played many games. Four games with extra time and many away from home. We have to recover and you can do much better when you win than when you lose. We are happy, the team is prepared and they look good to face a complicated opponent.
On Ansu Fati’s rumoured second operation
Out of respect for the player, I am not the person who should speak about his recovery. You have to have respect for him and I am not in favor of getting things out. When there is something, we will communicate and the most important thing is that he recovers with peace of mind. He has a great future ahead of him and we have to do these things properly.
On the possibility of resting some players for the cup semi-final
It is never good for a coach to say which game is more important. The one that comes is the most important. I go from day to day and go game by game. It is the best way to prepare for the games.
On his opinion regarding Pique’s comments about refereeing
I cannot speak of previous years. I can only comment on the matches up to today and there have been decisions in which we have not had much fortune but I do not want to say that they have been against us. In Granada the penalty we conceded didn’t have enough for me to be called a penalty but they are the referees and they have the VAR. I always think that the referee is honest and I do not think whether or not he is in favor of a team.
If he’s optimistic regarding Messi’s renewal
There is only one person who can comment on this (Messi) and it is he who can decide about his future. I would like him to stay for many more years. I try to make him feel good here as he is at the moment. Leo gives the team a lot of quality and we need him. He has a lot of morale and energy to help the team and his future is in his hands.
If right now he is experiencing his best moment at Barça
I cannot deny that I was very happy and proud in Granada with the quality and attitude of the team but I don’t know for how long. Football is a strange sport. Today it is sunny and tomorrow it may rain. Tomorrow is another game and what is done does not matter. We have to keep showing that we are on the right track.
On whether the focus is on Sevilla
It is true that there are two games in Seville that end late but I am in favor of sleeping at home. The players are used to a plan of many games and also prefer to be at home.
On Sergi Roberto’s condition
He can be ruled out for the first leg against PSG. It is a hard blow for everyone and for the player himself. He told me at half-time that he had no discomfort and eight minutes later he was injured again. We have to be encouraged. We spoke today for a moment and I encouraged him to recover and help the team again.
On Lenglet’s situation
He is important for us. He has played many games. We have competition because Umtiti has been doing well after his injury and it is better for everyone to have the center-backs available. It is not that one is better than the other. Sometimes one does the job well and the other must wait.
On managing Araujo’s game time
Like other players, I know that he has played many games but we have to face another complicated week and if there is a risk, we will rest him but it is something that we have yet to decide.
On Dembélé’s evolution
For any player, the physical condition is very important. Physically the team has improved. If not, you cannot endure a game every three days, with four extra-time periods and so many trips. It has been impressive how we have finished the extra-times. The work from preseason has been impressive and the team is very strong. And as for Ousmane, I don’t know what happened in previous years but seeing him, he has improved a lot physically and now has the pace of the games. He is great, he has skills in one against one situations, he is fast. I love this player. He is very involved, he is very happy and we have to continue like this. I will help him if necessary if he needs a break to get the best he has if he has to go out and play.
On Griezmann’s rise in quality
I remember the call I made to him when I signed for Barça. I told him I had a lot of confidence in him. I know he didn’t have the effectiveness at the beginning like he has now. I never had my doubts about him and he has self-criticism. It is important to have him as a player. He has always worked to recover and give the best of himself. You can’t ask for more.
If the team are thinking of putting pressure on Atlético Madrid
There is always hope but it depends on ourselves. It is in our hands. Unlike Atlético, who do not have games during the week, and therefore they are fresher… We have to continue winning games but it is still very difficult because we have a difficult game away from home but we are hopeful because we are improving and the team is very involved.
On Neto being on the bench against Granada
I already said that I am not one of those who let the second goalkeeper play in the Cup. In each game I talk to de la Fuente (FC Barcelona’s goalkeeper coach) and we have not decided for Wednesday’s game yet. I think about putting together the best team to win but I’m not so strict to say that if it is a Copa del Rey game, the second goalkeeper must play. It depends on many things, on the attitude.
On playing two games per week
It is true that the number of matches is very difficult for the big clubs in each competition and with this Covid situation. You have to communicate with the players to know how they are doing and sometimes it is possible to give a little rest. We have done it until now and we will do it for sure in the future. There are 12 games so far this year and 11 in a row away from home with the Cup next Wednesday. We must help the players. Hopefully FIFA and UEFA will think about the players to reduce the number of matches. It is too much and this calendar kills the players but I am not the first who has spoken about this. We must stop this situation. There are many injuries from wear and tear and travel.