Ronald Koeman faced the press on Friday to talk about Barcelona’s crunch La Liga match on Saturday at the Camp Nou against leaders Atletico Madrid.
The Barcelona boss spoke about the Rojiblancos, Luis Suarez, offered an update on Ansu Fati and his thoughts on his two-match touchline ban.
Here are the best bits:
Koeman on Atletico
I think we are both very good teams and we are fighting with two other very good teams for the title. You can’t compare the two teams, the styles are very different. The team that plays as a unit and is mentally strong and, in our case, we also need to be good with the ball and defend well.
Koeman’s message to his players
It’s true during a season you have your ups and downs. I think we managed to recover a lot of points in the league to be where we are now. It’s not something we were expecting 4-5 months ago. So tomorrow’s match is one of the last four and I understand this matchday and the one between Real Madrid and Sevilla can be important so we need to be mentally strong ahead of this game and play well and with a lot of aggression, especially without the ball. We are convinced we are going to play a good match.
Koeman on if it’s a title decider
I don’t think that tomorrow’s result will be decisive. There are still three more games left to play for everbody. Of course the result will be important but not decisive.
Koeman on if Messi’s lunch was a mistake
I don’t think it’s the moment right now to talk about this. The match is the most important thing.
Koeman on his touchline ban appeal
I think it’s important for me to be there and I hope the decision will come before tomorrow. I have been sanctioned for two matches and I don’t understand why it takes that long. If I’m there great, because I’m the coach and I like to be on the pitch. If not, we’ll do the same as against Valencia. The technical staff is good enough to do things well. We’ve been together for almost a season so our ideas are the same. We don’t need to go crazy if I’m not there.
Koeman on Luis Suarez
It will be a little bit awkward for him and our players because he played here for a long time but we’re professional and everyone will try to do the best for their team. I don’t think we need to focus too much on this. We need to concentrate on him but also the rest of the team.
Koeman on if Barca must win their last four games.
Yes my opinion hasn’t changed. I’m not going to change my opinion every week. If we win all four matches we become champions.
Koeman on Ansu Fati
I haven’t spoken yet with Ansu. I spoke to him before he left. He spoke with our doctor yesterday and we wished him well. It’s true that the poor kid has had some bad luck. There are a few things that didn’t go well. I don’t want to talk about it much more. It’s been 5-6 months and the most important thing right now is he gets better and he can be with us hopefully next season. It’s been an important loss, to miss a player like him, the most important thing is he recovers well.
Koeman on Dembele
I count on him tomorrow like I count on all the players. We will analyze the match. He might start on the bench or in the starting XI, we’ll see. Throughout the match I can make changes so I need all the players. Tomorrow we will play the team we think is best to win.
Koeman on if Real Madrid’s UCL exit will have an impact
No, I don’t think so. Those are things you need to accept and continue. I don’t think it’s an influence on the next few matches.
Koeman on Messi’s tactical knowledge
I was really aware of it before we started playing in the pre-season. He has a tactical idea of this team, he has an idea of how this team can hurt our opponents. He’s a player with a lot of qualities who’s incredibly important for this team. He doesn’t just think about himself but about his team-mates. He thinks about football where the team can be at its best and how the team can win the most.
Koeman on Messi’s future
Like I’ve said several times already, the best thing for us would be if Messi stays. That’s the best way to prepare for next season with the best player in the world in your team. Surely all the coaches right now will be talking about pre-season, about possible transfers and players that might need to go.
Koeman on referees and VAR
Maybe it’s better if I don’t share my opinion of the referees. Generally speaking I think the RFEF has put one of the best refs in for tomororw’s match. Hopefully he will get the right calls but we don’t need to think about this too much.
Koeman on if his ban feels personal
Yes I feel it’s something personal yes, because to say ‘vaya personaje’ - I don’t think that’s insulting. I don’t think it’s a reason to suspend someone for two matches, so yes I think it is something presonal.