Barcelona were able to follow up consecutive defeats against Cadiz and Juventus with a win against Levante which hardly seemed like a compensation. The team sits eighth in the table, a point adrift of Cadiz, who joined the La Liga for the first time in 14 years.
To top off their misery, Barça were seeded against PSG in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League. However, that is a long way off, and before that, the Blaugranas have to face table-toppers Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou.
Ronald Koeman sat down to address the media ahead of this mouth-watering clash, discussing a variety of topics.
On Riqui Puig
Riqui Puig was Barcelona’s standout performer against Juventus despite being subbed on in the second half. Fans were looking forward to his involvement on the weekend, but were left wanting as he was asked to sit back down after Lionel Messi scored the opener.
“Puig? There’s always some interest from the press because he is a home grown player and he’s not playing much. There are many more players in his situation. The coach decides through the training and attitude of the player.”
On Miralem Pjanic
Miralem Pjanic openly spoke about wanting more playing time, and was awarded with a start against Juventus. However, he too failed to make it off the bench against Levante, which was questioned in the press conference.
“I spoke to him about the things he needs to improve; I like his attitude. I don’t want players on the bench to feel unhappy.”
On the Sociedad clash and the disappointing Liga season
“Sociedad is a great team. They have many experienced players. We must press them when they have possession. We must harm them.”
“I’m not satisfied with the results. We have lost many points, and we must improve. The players are working hard, but there’s still something we lack.”
He spoke about the decision to sub in Samuel Umtiti for Antoine Griezmann late in the game when Barcelona were deadlocked at 0-0: “I accept criticism of losing so many points. But I don’t understand the criticism of my decision to play 5 defenders to preserve the score. I don’t understand that to be honest.”
“We can’t be happy with the trajectory in La Liga, but the evolution of the team must be valued. The work and attitude of the team against Levante was very good.”
On Mingueza and Umtiti
Oscar Mingueza has been a revelation for Barcelona this season, filling in for an injured Gerard Pique, and quite well, at that. Speaking about the decision to not play him in two consecutive games, Koeman said, “Mingueza will not return to Barça B because he’s training with us. He suffered from slight muscle discomfort last week. When Umtiti is fully fit we will have 4 centre-backs.”
On Ansu Fati’s recovery
Ansu Fati picked up a serious injury against Real Betis which ruled him out for nearly four months. However, recent reports suggest that he may be back for the game against PSG in February. Koeman was asked for an update on his situation, to which he replied:
“Fati? With these type of injuries it’s difficult to say when he’ll return. Hopefully he will be with us when we play against PSG, but we must not take any risk with him.”
On Messi matching Pele’s record
Lastly, Lionel Messi is just one short of Pele’s record for the most goals – 643 – with a single club in the history of the sport, and Koeman was asked to comment on this incredible feat.
“That Messi can match Pelé is impressive, we won’t have another player at the club with his effectiveness, that’s why he’s number one and he’s still important for the team, our attack depends on Leo. It’s incredible what he has done for this club.”
Source: Barca TV+
Ousmane Dembélé talks Tuchel, Messi, Eto’o, Laporta
In an interview with BeIN Sports, Ousmane Dembele spilled beans on various topics ranging from football to personal life. The interview was conducted before yesterday’s Clásico.
The French winger is reportedly a player who the new president, Joan Laporta, admires a lot. Even during his campaign, the Catalan lawyer raised the issue of Dembele’s renewal. The club has invested heavily in Dembele and has finally started to reap results.
When asked the question about his contract renewal, Dembele explained: “My future? I still have a year left on my contract. There have been no discussions with the club, I’m happy and I feel good.
“A new president has arrived and I don’t really know him, but he is very close to the players. We’ll see how it goes.”
In all the reports that have come out and interviews given by the young players, all of them have mentioned that the club captain, Lionel Messi shares an exceptional with this new generation of players.
On the same lines the World Cup winner said: “Messi gives confidence to the young players in the team and helps us a lot. He gives me advice.”
Dembele is said to be liking his new role up top in the newly found 3-5-2 system by Koeman. He jokingly said in the interview that the dressing room now relates him to Samuel Eto’o, a former Barça legend: “As I now play up top, they call me Samuel Eto’o in the dressing room.”
The Barça winger had an excellent season at Dortmund which led to multiple European giants going into a bidding war for him.
His strike partner during his days in Germany was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whom the Frenchman regarded as `his favorite teammate’. He also said that `Thomas Tuchel is his favorite coach’.