Ronald Koeman faced the press on Sunday to talk about his team ahead of tomorrow’s La Liga clash between Barcelona and Huesca.
The Dutchman spoke about his team’s title hopes, Atletico Madrid’s form, as well as midfielder Frenkie de Jong and captain Lionel Messi.
Here are the best bits:
Koeman on Huesca
The team is doing well, with a lot of enthusiasm. We play on a Monday, a rare day, and we already know the results of our rivals. We have to win. We are focused. There are no easy games and we will have to play well to win.
Koeman on Laporta
I have not spoken much with him. On the trip to Paris we spoke a little about several things. We have to meet with more time. Now is not the time to speak out.
Koeman on Messi & De Jong at risk of suspension
We know they are one card away [from suspension], but this is not a time to think about that. Tomorrow’s game doesn’t have to be easier than next Sunday. We have to be focused only on winning. The next game is always the most important.
Koeman on title
First, we have to win tomorrow but we are closing the gap which shows we have improved. It also shows that it is very difficult to win games, those at the bottom fight not to go down, and those at the top fight to reach Europe or to win the title. We have to go game by game, as we have done lately. We don’t have to look at the table. We know we can’t fail anymore.
Koeman on Nagelsmann rumors
His reaction has been very good. I am not very interested either. If I have to answer the names of coaches and players that some journalists write about ... We would only talk about that. It is not necessary. It’s easy. I have a contract as a coach and we are improving a lot of things.
Koeman on Barca future
This team has a big future. There is a lot of quality. We wanted to change things and this is clearly visible. It is the path that we have started and it is not finished. It also depends on the older players and we must highlight the quality, the energy that they put in like Messi, Alba, Busquets, Pique and Sergi Roberto.
Koeman on Barca being title favorites?
Maybe, you could look at it that way. We have the experience, it’s not easy to keep up with this rhythm of games, to maintain this quality. Today the sun shines, tomorrow it can rain. We have to continue with the energy all the players are showing, we have to be humble and continue on this path. That’s the most important thing, focus on ourselves rather than others. Teams always have ups and downs. We try to have less downs than ups in order to win.
Koeman on Atletico dropping points
I don’t think we don’t need to laugh at others. We still need to play our match. First we look at ourselves. The team is very committed, we’ve been having good results for a while. Everyone wants to be involved, the injured players are keen to get back and help the team. You notice that on the pitch, you notice the energy. You see the stats, see how physically this team is and the quality is there. We need to stay focused because Huesca, although they are bottom, are a dangerous team and they are going to come and try to play, pressure us, we need to be mentally very strong.
Koeman on if he expected to cut the gap by now
Well, I always said the season is very long. I also think it’s not necessarily normal the amount of points Atletico had in the first half of the season. They were very effective, very efficient. they were always going to drop points, that’s normal. Our trajectory since Cadiz, we’ve picked up a lot of points and improved. So for me, there is still a lot of league to play for.
Koeman on playing on a Monday
It’s true it’s a bit weird to see the other teams play first and we have to play on the Monday. We’re not used to it but we accept it and we must be prepared. We’ve had two days of rest. The players came back yesterday with a lot of motivation to be ready for tomorrow’s game.
Koeman on his message to the players for the run-in
It’s not one message that I give on one day, it’s the manner in which we approach and face each game that has allowed us to be in the position we are in today. It’s a period over a few games and training sessions and of course yes we’ve improved physically. The team is very motivated, we’ve improved from a football perspective, we’ve improved our play off the ball. You can’t do everything well with a new coach in two weeks. The players are happy with how we are playing and training and right now everyone is happy.
Koeman on Barca vs PSG
That was maybe the maximum a coach can ask from his players. That level, the way we played against a very strong team in their ground. If we look at this season where we’ve dropped unnecessary points, a lot of that is because we weren’t efficient in front of goal. If you look at the 6-1 comeback against PSG from a few years ago, we see that Barca didn’t have as many chances as we had last week. We demand a lot from our players but we must make sure our players are effective and efficient in front of goal and that’s what we are working on.
Koeman on De Jong being a leader
Yes for me he is a player who will be here for many years and his improvement compared to last year is drastic. I think the player himself feels very responsible for the future as well. It’s true that even though he’s a very young player, he’s a player who assumes responsibility in games and I like that. I think Frenkie has improved a lot. He is having a fantastic season so far and I think the way he’s playing recently you can’t possibly ask for more, he just needs to continue like this.
Koeman on Jordi Cruyff possibly joining Barca
I can’t really say much. I think those are things for the president to decide his team, the important roles. I know Jordi and his family very well. I think he could be a candidate, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him about this.
Koeman on Atletico going through a rough patch?
I don’t like to talk about other teams. We need to just focus on ourselves. We need to close the gap which we’ve been doing. I don’t think Atletico have dropped their level a lot. I think also they’ve been unlucky. They had a lot of clear chances, it’s something we went through as well. Sometimes the ball goes in and sometimes it doesn’t. They are very strong and we will fight to the end to win.
Koeman on Messi making his 767th appearance tomorrow
It’s incredible because it shows how important he is and has been for Barcelona. The number of games, the goals, the hat-tricks, the titles. Let’s hope we will continue with Leo winning titles.