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Koeman talks Messi, Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong ahead of Atletico clash

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The latest from the Barcelona boss

FC Barcelona v Dynamo Kyiv: Group G - UEFA Champions League Photo by Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman faced the press on Friday to discuss Saturday’s big La Liga clash against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

The Dutch coach was, unsurprisingly, asked plenty of questions about Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann as well as talking about the trip to Atleti.

Koeman also spoke about Frenkie de Jong, fit-again Philippe Coutinho and Riqui Puig.

Here are the best bits:

Koeman on Atletico

We know it’s a complicated match against a team who are really strong and have been for many years. We need to appreciate the work of their coach. We know it’s a complicated match but we can have a lot of confidence in ourselves. We can talk about the players they have but we also have some important players who are fit to play. We hope to play a good match.

Koeman and Messi and Griezmann

On the one hand I understand Leo is a bit annoyed. I think we need to respect people like Leo Messi much more. After such a long journey, to ask him things about Antoine shows a lack of respect. It’s an attempt from the media to create controversy. I have not seen any problem between Leo and Antoine.

Koeman on if he sees Messi leaving Barcelona

No and I won’t say any more about it

Koeman on schedule

We know especially for big teams this is a really tight calendar. But I don’t understand why all the away matches we have played have been at 9pm. Playing the games at 9pm doesn’t help us, I understand that Atlético Madrid - Barça play at this time because it’s a big game, but always playing at 9pm for teams who play every three days is a problem, you get home very late and then we go to play Tuesday night in Kiev.

Koeman on Pep Guardiola

It’s important Pep continues as a coach. He’s an important reference for all the coaches and I’m happy for him. I congratulated him yesterday and if he’s happy then I’m happy.

Koeman on Frenkie de Jong

For me he’s an important player. He’s had his first season here, he’s improved a lot and he can improve more. Also we don’t have many more midfielders that can play in that pivot position. Of course we have to think and find a moment when we can give him a rest but these are important matches. We’ll try to find an opportunity for him to rest.

Koeman on Coutinho

We are happy that Philippe is back. He’s training well, without problems. He’s had almost a week now with the group training. He could start or come off the bench, knowing the matches we have ahead of us we must find the best way to use him.

Philippe can play in various positions. I think he’s not a winger, so if he plays on the wing he will have opportunities to come inside. He can play as a offensive midfielder, he’s a great player for a coach because he can play different positions.

Koeman on Riqui Puig

Riqui is one of those young players who needs to work hard to have minutes. He is working hard to convince me. I give minutes and games when I think they are deserved.

Koeman on Messi future

Messi still has a contract. I hope his future is with Barca and for me it has to be here. But I’m not the person who has to try to keep him. No one knows what will happen.

First of all I need to defend Leo because if something like that happened to me after a 15 hour trip and then you have to wait an hour and then you go outside and there’s lost of press asking those types of questions. I will be dangerous too. And the rest? I hope he stays at Barcelona. I think it’s unbelievable what he’s done for this club.