Ronald Koeman has held a press conference in the buildup to the Copa del Rey final, talking on a range of different topics. His side is set to go head-to-head against Marcelino’s Athletic Bilbao in the final. The fixture is a mouthwatering one, with Marcelino’s sides being ones that typically show up in the big moments. Nonetheless, the Barça coach is looking to set the right mindset going into the fixture.
On the final and Athletic Bilbao
Speaking on his team’s journey to the final, Koeman emphasised just how difficult the journey to the final was. He said, “Both teams suffered in order to reach the final. We know we’re facing a competitive team. We have to be good with the ball and without the ball.“
By no means will Bilbao be an easy task for the Blaugranas, and we certainly hope the Dutchman has prepared his team thinking the same.
Speaking on Bilbao, and the frequency of games they have faced each other this season, Koeman said, “When you play three times in front of the same team there are no secrets either for us or for them. We know Bilbao is fighting and a strong team so we have to look at our weapons. We have to be good with the ball, and when we lose it, we have to be strong defensively.”
The Blaugranas will have to be at their very best tomorrow. The defender-turned-manager also emphasised this, saying “We need all the players to be at their 100% tomorrow.“
On winning the cup, the 58-year-old said, “I think it’s important that we win the cup tomorrow. It’s going to be beautiful. A lot better since the January final.”
Evidently, this final means a lot to the team, as it has been over a year and a half since Barça last enjoyed winning silverware. Additionally, they have been through several tumultuous moments throughout last season and this one and a trophy will be a welcome path back into winning ways.
On the tactics and formation
Koeman was naturally questioned regarding the tactics that he will aim to employ in tomorrow’s match. It is noteworthy that the Dutch manager has used nine different formations this season, and so it is very difficult to predict what formation he will opt for.
However, given a poor showing utilising the 3-5-2 against Real Madrid, various reports are claiming that the manager is considering a switch back to the traditional 4-3-3. Speaking on the same, however, Koeman emphasised that formations are not the important fundamental in terms of tactics, but rather dominating the ball.
He said, “The tactic is always the same whether we play with 3 or 4 defenders. The idea is always to control the ball and create as many chances as possible.” Regardless of how the team shape up on the field, it is the domination in possession, positioning, and pressuring that will make the Garnet and the Blue secure their best chance of winning the tie.
Koeman also spoke about set pieces being a strong suit of Bilbao’s: “Set pieces are a strength for Bilbao, we must defend well and not make mistakes in dangerous areas.”
Additionally, the 58-year-old highlighted the importance of valuing defensive work rate just as much as attacking output, given that the Blaugranas are an attacking team in their entirety.
He said, “We are a team that always attacks, many players move forward when the ball is with us. But the defensive side is very important too, and we have to think about what happens if we lose the ball. Being hungry in attack is good, but defensive work has to be correct either.”
On Pique’s availability
Regarding Pique’s availability in tomorrow’s final, the Dutchman is in no doubt. He is confident that the Spanish defender will be available for selection. Pique has suffered a variety of injuries this season, mostly to his knee, missing out on a lot of action.
Speaking on the same, Koeman said, “Piqué is doing much better and has trained without having any problems. He can play tomorrow.”
On Laporta and his future
Koeman also answered questions on his future at the club as well as his relationship with club president Joan Laporta. He said, “I talked with Laporta, and he explained to me that he has trust in me. I don’t worry about my future when I lose a game.“
“It’s a bit strange that I need to answer these type of questions… We had a run of 19 games without losing. We’re losing one game, and I already need to talk about my future?”
On Lionel Messi
What seems to be a recurring topic in Koeman’s pressures popped up once again, with questions surrounding Messi’s contribution and mentality being asked.
In response, the coach said, “Messi has shown his professionalism this season. Even in trainings, he gives his everything. I’m sure he’ll give his everything in the final too, he knows very well about the atmosphere.”
Additionally, the Dutchman is also convinced by the attitude of the rest of his players. He said, “I don’t think I need to motivate the players for tomorrow because it’s a final and everyone is excited already.“
Source: Barça TV+