Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman spoke to the press on Saturday to look ahead to the club’s La Liga clash against Valencia at the Camp Nou.
Sunday’s match is Barca’s first after the international break and kicks off a busy week with Dynamo Kiev and Real Madrid still to come.
Koeman spoke about the match, offered updates on Ousmane Dembele and Clement Lenglet and his own future at the Camp Nou.
Here are the best bits:
Koeman on Valencia
It’s true we expect a difficult game. His [Bordalas] teams are always very competitive, very physical, and also with the ball they are an important team. With regards our defense we need to improve aspects which were missing in the last games. We are playing at home, we are going to try and win the game, create danger and we know it’s a very, very important game.
Koeman on Aguero
Kun has improved a lot lately. He played in a friendly match on Wedneday but he’s missing rhythm, last Ansu did when he first came back, but he’ll get that back with minutes. There’s a possibility he’ll be included in the squad. It’s not a question of quality, because inside the box he’s a great player and will be able to give the team a lot in attack. What is most important is that he’s physically 100 per cent and he’ll get there by playing minutes, like Ansu.
Koeman on Dembele
Dembele is training very well. There’s still some time left for him to be back with the squad but he’s working hard. Whether he’ll be back for Madrid? We’ll see, I can’t tell you that right now. I just don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see how things go. His contract? I leave that up to the club.
Koeman on if the Kiev game is more important
No, not really. The most important is the next game. In the Champions League we know that we have to win the six points against Dinamo. Wednesday will be another competition but this week we depend on ourselves.
Koeman on Pedri’s renewal
It’s something the club felt adequate, I have nothing to say about that [his release clause]. It’s important he renewed because we want to have the best players here. Any coach tries to improve any player on the squad but it’s up to the player themselves. He listens very well, he tries to improve, he has great character for someone so young. It’s great news he will be with us for so many years.
Koeman on if Ansu will start
We’ll see tomorrow. Every day he’s improving but he’s been out for a long, long time and you just don’t get that match fitness back in two weeks. We know we have three games in a week. He can’t play them all because of how long he’s been out. We need to decide what’s best for him and what’s best for the team.
Koeman on his future
I’m quite used to being talked about with doubt but I’ve never been very concerned. It’s an important role at a massive club so it doesn’t surprise me. You always know that certain things won’t go your way. I also remember last season there were moments when I was the topic of discussion. The president has backed me, defended me but I understand any manager who wants to continue needs to win games.
Koeman on Lenglet
First of all it’s a technical decision. It’s true he’s also had minor injuries and hasn’t been able to train normally. He’s a very serious player who gives his all but he has to wait for his chance and grab it when it comes knocking. He’s never complained and I have no complaints. He’s a professional and an example of a player who needs to train and be ready.
Koeman on Busuqets
I agree I think in those two games with Spain he played fantastically. We know his qualities. I think we could also as a team help him more but I don’t think we can compare the Spain team with Barca. We are very different, we try to be compact, get the best out of Busquets, we need to do that and ensure Busquets is comfortable.
Koeman on Gavi
Gavi has demonstrated, despite his age, that he knows how to play at the highest level. When you give him the chance, like I did and like Luis Enrique has, he’s taken advantage and that’s what’s beautiful about football. Both of us have bet on youngsters because they are the future. It depends on the player himself but I think it’s important to have these players if they are there and to give them chances, try to find the balance in the team.
Koeman on if he’s happy with team
It’s true with these changes we are getting more competitive and we try to find players who will improve the squad. Injuries will continue to happen but we were quite unlucky. Having injured forwards left us very limited. I think now we are improving. I think we have a squad that is capable of fighting for the league title.