Ronald Koeman is back on speaking terms with the press and held his usual pre-match press conference on Tuesday to preview Barcelona’s Champions League clash against Benfica.
The Dutchman offered an update on Ansu Fati, after his heroics against Levante, spoke a little bit about Luuk de Jong and the threats that Benfica will pose his team.
Here are the best bits:
Koeman on Benfica
We know they are a strong team and have an important place in the world of football. It will be a nice match and a match where we need a good result. There are two teams with their own style who will play to win so it will be interesting.
Koeman on if Barca will play as they did against Levante
I think part of the match the other day without the ball we played well, perfectly, which is what we want, to pressure the opposition and not let them play. And then when we have the ball to try to find the spaces between the lines. We always try but some matches work out better. This is another match and it will depend on our attitude, how we can pressure them, recover the ball and play.
Koeman on if Ansu Fati will be called up for Spain
I don’t know because I’m not the manager of the national team. I think the player still has a long way to go. For me it was a great day, a good match, we got Ansu to play his 15 minutes and he scored the third goal which was perfect for us. I can’t really give my opinion as far as Spain goes. All I can say he’s been out for 10 months, he’s trained a few weeks with the team and he’s played 15 minutes. That’s it.
Koeman on his line-up
I think the most important thing is to plan the match. You have to look at the opposition and the youngsters. Playing five matches in 12 days is a lot for any player so we have to look where the team is physically fresher and plan the match to get the best result
Koeman on Luuk de Jong
His signing was very last minute and to reinforce our attack because of the attacking injuries. As we’ve seen, little by little, we are getting our forwards back. He gives us a lot, different to what we’ve had. He was good the other day, he scored, he brings experience, he’s played a lot of times for many important teams in Europe.
Koeman on what Barca can expect from Benfica
We can expect a complicated match. I know the atmosphere they can generate there and the strength they have at home. I don’t think they are a team who are open a lot and leave much space. The Portuguese mentality is to control the match and have a strong defense with talented players up front. I think that’s what we can expect.
Koeman on if Barca will play like they did against Levante or be more cautious
Barca always play to try and win the match. Our intention is to control the match, get the ball and find spaces with the players we have got. The other day we played almost without a right wing so there are clearly a lot of options to change the team. We are missing players on the wing so you have to fill the middle of the field with players.
Koeman on how Ansu Fati is feeling
He is very tired emotionally because it’s been a big impact for him after such a long time out, training, scoring, being with his family. We need to take all that into account and how that could influence his mental state. He trained today without any problem. We will try to give him as much time as possible in the matches but it depends on how he is physically and mentally. I can’t tell you before every match how many minutes he’ll get, it depends on the state of the player.
Koeman on Benfica’s speed in transition
We have analyzed Benfica. We know where they have their strong points. We’ll try and stop them taking the ball and we know they are quick on the counter, they can do a lot of damage. It’s important to keep the ball. If we lose it, we need to organise ourselves well in defense. That’s very important.
Koeman on Benfica’s approach
I think it’s always good to have respect for the opposition. They’ve got the advantage of playing at home where they’ll try to attack and try to win. I think they play to win, it’s not a team that doesn’t want to lose. We are the same.
Koeman on Benfica’s most dangerous players
I don’t like to talk about individuals despite the fact that they have very experienced players like Otamendi or Vertonghen in defense, or Gedson at the top who is very fast.