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Koeman talks Messi return, Ilaix & Barcelona finances ahead of Copa del Rey

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The latest from the Barcelona boss

Elche CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Ronald Koeman spoke to reporters on Tuesday ahead of his team’s Copa del Rey last 16 clash against Rayo Vallecano.

It’s an eighth straight away match for Barca and a win will take them into the quarter-finals of the competition.

Koeman talked about Wednesday’s opponents, Lionel Messi’s fitness, rotating his squad and youngster Ilaix Moriba.

Here are the best bits:

Koeman on Rayo Vallecano

I think they are just like a first division team. They have first division quality players. We know it’s a complicated game at a tough ground and we have to play well. We have to be focused to go through to the next round.

Koeman on rotation

I have to look at the players. There are players banged up with injuries, some are tired. This is a big moment in the season with Copa matches, we are doing well in La Liga, have picked up a lot of points away from home. We will decide on a strong team for tomorrow to go through.

Koeman on Barca’s economic situation

A lot of it is due to Covid, there are no fans in the stadiums and we suffer from that more than most other teams. That is something that had a big influence on the economic situation of the club. A lot of the big teams have those problems, not just here. I’ve seen the players focused, ready to work hard. I haven’t seen players worried about this issue.

Koeman on players earning too much?

That depends on the club. They offer contracts, the club makes the offer, the players accept. What we have to do is focus on our work and win matches. It is a tough situation but we’ve helped the club by lowering our salaries.

Koeman on Messi playing against Rayo

Leo is excited to play and win. He’s accustomed to winning titles. He’s the kind of player who wants to play in every match. We’ve looked at tomorrow’s opponents and I will have a look at the team who will play tomorrow. You’ll have to wait to see who plays.

Koeman on Messi being rested after two-match ban

He was a little banged up. He didn’t play the last two matches but it wasn’t exactly a lot of time off. I think he’s injury-free, he is well-rested. To win titles we need Leo Messi in form and at his level because of his play and the way he is so clinical.

Koeman on Ilaix

Regarding the players who may have a future here, it’s good sometimes for them to play and train with the first team and see their level, see if they can compete. Ilaix is one of those players, who despite his youth - he just turned 18, it’s important that he gets a feel for things. It helps him to put him in the squad, it becomes a norm for him, shows he’s been doing good work. He still has a long way to go but he’s a player who has a future here.

Koeman on extra-time

We would like to have a result in our favor during normal time and to do that you need to play well, work hard and be very intense. I hope we win without issues but the most important thing is to go through.

Koeman on resting Araujo

It’s true with some injury issues we’ve had with Gerard, Umtiti, we were limited in our options and Araujo has shown in his matches that we are good with him as a center-back. He’s performed very well and works hard every day to improve. If we think there’s a good time for him to rest he’ll rest, if not he’ll play. We have to play a team that will win but we won’t take any risks.

Koeman on Copa del Rey being a priority

We put the same emphasis on winning all the competitions we are playing. To be realistic, Atletico's advantage [in La Liga] and with the rest that they have in midweek for the next few weeks is a big factor. We will try and do everything we can. The Copa is shorter with fewer games and we play the Copa del Rey to win the Copa del Rey. I want the same effort from my team as they’ve shown in all their games and especially tomorrow

Koeman on Sergi Roberto

He needs a few more training sessions. He’s trained with the group twice and they are very short sessions because of our match schedule. We have a more physical training session on Friday, for players who don’t play tomorrow, from which we can draw conclusions. If he gets through that without issues there’s a big chance he could be ready for the game on Sunday.

Koeman on goalkeepers

Firstly I have not said that we have one goalkeeper for La Liga and one for the Copa del Rey. I decide game by game. I haven’t talked with the players about tomorrow’s game. I also have to talk with the goalkeepers.

Koeman on Messi out for revenge after red card

I don’t think so. it’s something that happened. He had a two games ban and we move forward, moving forward with the team in which Messi has a big role due to many reasons and with his skill we can win games.