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Koeman talks Dembele fitness, defending corners and Messi ahead of Real Valladolid

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The latest from the Barcelona boss

FC Barcelona v Levante UD - La Liga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Ronald Koeman has been talking all things Barcelona ahead of Tuesday’s La Liga clash against Real Valladolid.

The Barca boss offered an update on Ousmane Dembele’s fitness, spoke about Barca’s defending at corners and was also asked about captain Lionel Messi latest interview.

Here are the best bits:

Koeman on Real Valladolid

You have to play a more regular game, being better with the ball and improving things without the ball. We must have maximum concentration during the game.

Koeman on Barca’s direction

Today it’s a team where we need to change a lot of things. Younger players are playing and that’s why we have been a little inconsistent. We are also missing some players. For the future it looks good, but at Barcelona you have to win and battle for titles and it’s a complicated situation.

Koeman on Messi

I don’t need to see a Messi interview to see how hungry and motivated he is. I see him with the team and his team-mates. It’s always tough for any player who has won as much as he has not to win every match. I don’t know all he said in the interview, we’ll see, but what he said about being motivated, I see that every day.

Koemanon on Sergio Ramos’s handball

I don’t understand it. I said after our game against Real Madrid, I don’t want to repeat it. Nine of 10 people would have given the penalty. We know that. I can give my opinion like everyone can and I can say that for me it is a penalty. The referee and his team and the VAR decided the opposite. I respect that because it’s not an easy job, but if you ask me, it’s a penalty.

Koeman on the transfer market

I’m talking to Ramon Planes about sport-related issues, not with anyone else. I don’t really want to because I think we have to wait for a new president. Right now I have to manage the team, prepare for our matches, there are lots of games. There isn’t even much time to talk about other things. we’ll see what happens in January

Koeman on if Dembele will be in the squad

I think it’s a little too early. He did part of the training sesion with the reserves yesterday, which is normal the day after the game. He needs more training sessions to be able to go on the squad list. He could make the squad for Eibar at the end of December.

Koeman on formations

I think looking at the players we can play in various systems. When we have three midfielders, there’s a lot of movement. Depending on the team you are playing you can also have two defensive midfielders or just one. It’s about preparing us and getting us in a position to make it easier to play. If it’s a 4-4-2, you can play with one center midfielder, it’s not a system that’s set in stone.

Koeman on Araujo wearing the No.4

I don’t get involved in shirt numbers, that’s a club issue. I think it’s a number with a lot of history, but I think he’s showing he’s a brave kid. He needs to improve a lot of things. He’s very strong physically and he has a great future ahead of him. I hope he can wear the No. 4 for many years to come.

Koeman on corners

We always analyze set pieces to defend well. Sometimes our opponents have taller players. We have to be more focused on marking. It happened with Valencia, we were in a position but Ronald Araujo was slightly out of position, not to place the blame on him, but we have to concentrate more, mark better. We know it’s a tough job and sometimes we lack taller players to defend against those type of plays.

Koeman on Real Valladolid being a ‘must-win’ for title hopes

Each game we don’t win is a step back but it also still depends on the results of the other teams too. I still think that there are many games ahead, in which many things can happen. The problem isn’t drawing at home to Valencia, the problem is we lost too many matches away and now we are in a situation where we can’t trip up. It is pressure on the team knowing we can’t make a mistake if we want to close the gap.

Koeman on Lenglet being benched

I think it’s just part of the shuffling of the lineup we have to do for physical reasons. It’s impossible to keep up the pace in such a short amount of time.