Ronald Koeman held his usual pre-match press conference on Saturday to discuss Barcelona’s trip to Elche in La Liga.
The Dutch coach spoke about his team’s tiredness, Sergino Dest’s fitness, Junior Firpo’s future and how his players have been practising penalties.
Here are the best bits:
Koeman on Elche
We know that La Liga is a very competitive league. There is never an easy opponent. We know we have a very busy calendar with lots of games. We’ve played three games with extra-time which makes the team a lot more tired and seven away games in a row, so lots of traveling this month. This time we're playing Sunday afternoon and now I must see which players have a strong mentality to win the game.
Koeman on tiredness
It’s important to recover players. The team needs more players available to keep rotating. Sergi Roberto looks like he’ll be back soon. Today he trained with the group for the first time, he needs a bit more to be in the squad list. If we see a player who is very tired we will make changes. We must continue and hope we don’t get more injuries.
Koeman on Sergino Dest
Sergino has played lots of games, he’s been helping a lot in his first season at Barca. He’s a very young player and it’s tough for young players. He was injured, he looks recovered, tomorrow we’ll assess and see if he can start or be on the bench.
Koeman on penalties
We have taken 12 penalties this season and we’ve missed seven, it’s too much. Every player can miss a penalty but to miss seven out of 12 is too much. We know that our No. 1 on penalties is Leo but he’s not there so we must have others who have the quality to take on that responsibility and score from the penalty spot. We have trained to improve that yesterday and today and I understand some players take them better than other. You can’t compare penalties in training to in the game but now there is no audience and the pressure is less. We need to do something about it because it’s unacceptable.
Koeman on eight away games in a row
We’ve never played so many games in a row away from home. Eight is a lot. So I think the team has done well in that sense. It’s been a tough month, apart from the result in the final against Athletic we’ve done well.
Koeman on who will take the penalties
In the conversation before the match we’ll decide which two players will take any penalties. And then it’s the captain who makes the final decision.
Koeman on Junior Firpo
It’s his decision. Right now he’s with us and when he’s had minutes he’s performed well in my opinion. All the young players must decide what they want. We can’t lose all the players because there’s lots of games coming up.
Koeman on Konrad
Konrad is an important player for us. He’s a forward that can take on defenders very well in 1 vs 1 situations but there’s things he must improve. A few weeks ago he dropped his level but now he’s improved again. Right now we have problems up front with injuries and so we need Konrad. I’d prefer him play with Barca B to get more minutes, the same with Ilaix or Collado, because the youngsters have to play games
Koeman on Araujo
Ronald gives a lot to this team. He’s played a lot of games and he’s playing really well. The center-back role is a very important position. He’s young and takes on the responsibility well. He has a lot of character, he’s very intense, and like every youngster, there are things he must improve especially when he has possession of the ball. But he’s doing well and has been performing at a very high level.
Koeman on Griezmann stepping up while Messi is out
Not just Griezmann, you don’t have to put pressure on him, he’s always fighting for the team. In the last few games he’s playing well and helping the team, he scored two goals in the Super Cup final. It’s not just Griezmann, we need goals from other players too, from the strikers, the midfielders. We have to focus not only on Griezmann. We have Dembélé, Trincao, Braithwaite ... they all have to step forward