Barcelona will look to get back from winning ways in the La Liga when they host Real Betis at the Camp Nou in game week 9 of the Spanish league. The Catalan giants currently sit in 12th place, and are coming on the back of a 2-1 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the league, and a 1-1 draw against Deportivo Alavés in the league. Ronald Koeman sat down to address the press ahead of this clash.
Undoubtedly, one of the first questions the Dutchman received was about Lionel Messi and his position on the pitch against Kyiv. The Argentine was shifted from a more central zone to the right-wing while Pedri occupied the attacking midfield role.
“Messi is a brilliant player. We put him on the pitch where he can do damage to the opposition. He’s crucial to the team.”
Before the game against Barcelona, Real Betis legend Joaquin addressed the press, and when asked about Ronald Koeman, and if he would recommend Koeman as manager of Betis, having played under him at Valencia, to which he sharply replied, “Not even as the kit man!” Naturally, Koeman was asked about this, and the former Valencia coach did not miss a beat before replying.
“Statements like these excited journalists, don’t they? I know he likes to talk, but I prefer not to get myself into this stuff and the past.”
Koeman had acknowledged before the game that Barcelona made multiple errors while defending, and finishing in midweek, and brought it up for his presser as well, saying:
“We must not make the same defensive mistakes like the ones we made against Kyiv. We have to correct our errors. We’re ready.”
“A lot of our players pass the ball around the penalty box. We have discussed finishing, and we need time to change our mentality.”
After six games in the league, Barcelona sit 12th, with two wins, two draws, and two losses. They have not won a game in four, which was brought up by the press, as it had to be.
“A team like Barcelona had to be on top of the league. We must criticise ourselves if we’re not there. But at the same time, there is no need to be extremely worried. The season is long”, Koeman said, before continuing, ” A win is a must tomorrow. We need the three points.”
Image via Imago
After the game against the Ukrainian outfit in the Champions League, several clips were released of Messi not pressing the opposition forward in the closing 13 seconds of the game. The press used it as an excuse to question his commitment to the team.
“Look, you can picture any player strolling on the pitch at times. Messi is enjoying himself and I am very pleased with him. Leo breathes football.”
Barcelona are short of centre-backs at the moment, which is no surprise, with Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique as the only fit options from the first team. Samuel Umtiti, though, returned to training last week, and queries on his involvement in the team were raised along with Barça’s quantitive defensive crisis.
“Umtiti is going through the final stages of recovery. If he is ready, then I will count on him.”
“We lack defender at the moment. Frenkie can play as a CB, but his position is as a DM.”
Continuing on the Kyiv game, another talking point about Marc-Andre ter Stegen return to the Barcelona came up, and Koeman’s opinions about how Neto fared in the absence of the Barcelona #1.
“Stegen was exceptional in his first game after being injured. He is a great keeper.” The former Everton manager continued after this, “Neto is also a very good keeper. He proved to be a great keeper when Marc was injured.”
The final and one of the most important talking point from the presser was about his intentness to play fan-favourites, Riqui Puig and Carles Aleña, both of whom have played a combined grand total of no more than 15 minutes this season in all competitions. Koeman’s answer was diplomatic, and will not encourage any Culé.
“Aleña and Puig show a lot of desire in training. They give it their all, and I will give them minutes when they deserve it.”