Ronald Koeman had plenty to talk about on Monday when he spoke to reporters about Barcelona’s Champions League first leg against Paris Saint-Germain.
The Barca boss offered an update on his injured defenders Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo, discussed the threat posed by Kylian Mbappe and his team’s hopes of European glory.
Here are the best bits:
Koeman on the first leg
Well, first of all we are very excited to play this match in the Champions League even though we know it’ll be very difficult because PSG have a very strong team. It’ll be very interesting given our track record and the way we have been improving over the last few months and for them because of their quality. It will be two interesting and beautiful matches.
Koeman on Pique
Gerard’s looking good. He’s been training with us for 4-5 days and the feeling is good regarding how his physical level is but I still have one more day to decide. He’s been out for a long time, we’ll talk and we’ll decide tomorrow.
Koeman on the Barca defense
Any of our defenders that are fit we can put in the team. I think they’ve had good games, there’s been some individual errors but that’s part of football. I have no doubts about our players who know how to defend against a strong team such as Paris. It will be a very tactical game, we know how to dominate and defensively know how to stop their individual stars. Of course, it will come down to details and we’ll see who I decide to play in central defense.
Koeman on Neymar’s injury
I think we always need to protect these types of players. It could be Neymar, it could be Messi, it could be Ronaldo. I think they allow us to enjoy their individual quality. Referees should make an effort to protect them, but football is a contact sport and sometimes they get an ugly foul.
Koeman on Araujo
It’s true Araujo hasn’t practiced and I don’t think he’ll make it. Any player who’s in the squad list has options to play.
Koeman on UCL dreams
I already said after this draw that I believe in my team, I believe that we have a lot of quality players. I think we have improved in our style of play and results but during the draw I was thinking this is a very equal match-up. We are very ambitious ahead of this match, we are aware that our confidence has been boosted and our chances to win this match have grown and that’s important.
Koeman on PSG
For any team of course it’s important to have all your players available. Di Maria and Neymar are fantastic players that will improve them just like Ansu, Coutinho, Sergi, Araujo for us. We need to make sure other players are ready to step up. I’m not scared of anything because I have full trust in my players, I respect the opponent because they are strong, and their recent track record in the Champions League makes them one of the favorites. We will try and dominate the match, each team has positives and negatives and we have to try and capitalize on the negatives.
Koeman on Dembele’s progress
For me, I think more credit is down to the player. He has to work, the manager has to create a certain atmosphere within the group, needs to create practice sessions he thinks his players need, so I think regards the physical aspect, not just Ousmane, but a lot of players have improved. The efficiency of Dembele counts a lot on his physical state and also mentally he needs to deal with the pressure of being a Barca player. We helped him, but he himself has been most important in these changes.
Koeman on what approach he expects from PSG
We will see, it’s a knockout match over two games. When you play the first leg away you have to get the best possible result, try to score, so I think they’ll be thinking along those lines. They are also a team that wants to dominate, we like to have the ball and play and create opportunities with the ball. For us to keep the scoresheet to nil for our opponents is very important.
Koeman on what are PSG’s weaknesses
We analyze our opponents, whether they are a team that has a high press, where there are spaces, those are tactical things where we need to be prepared. We know of course about Mbappe and his speed and you try to control him. We need to make sure when we lose the ball we are good in defense.
Koeman on Messi vs Mbappe
I don’t think it’s a direct matchup between Messi and Mbappe. It’s a battle between two teams. Messi is the best player in the world and we’ll need him at his best form to win. For PSG, it’s Mbappe who is a very fast player, a player who can make things very complicated for any defense. We are going to have a beautiful game because you have to enjoy these players.
Koeman on how to defend Mbppe
Generally speaking, I’m not in favor of man-to-man marking for these types of players. We know where we can play, we know where we have players who can play between the lines. It's important for us when we have the ball to be defensively ready for when we lose the ball. I think that’s an important aspect for us tomorrow.
Koeman on PSG talking about Messi
It’s not something I’m concerned about. I’m focused on having the players ready for the matches ahead of us. Messi is a Barca player, I have a lot of hope he will continue to play for us.
Koeman on Barcelona
I don’t see other teams better than Barcelona right now. But it’s not good to expect to win the Champions League when we have done a lot of changes this season. The team is at a high level and we can beat anyone.