Club football returned across Europe this weekend after the conclusion of the international break. Barcelona’s first game after the restart is against Real Valladolid, which takes place this Monday. With the El Classico on the horizon, Ronald Koeman may want to think about rotating his team against a slightly weaker opponent in Valladolid.
A short while ago, the media held a press conference with the Dutchman, in which he covered several topics ranging from Messi and de Jong to the transfer of Erling Haaland.
The coach started off by talking about Real Valladolid’s tricky situation with Covid-19, in which several players in the club have become unavailable for the game due to contracting the virus. Speaking on the same, he said “We know that Real Valladolid have casualties due to injuries, due to COVID-19. Despite the break we’ve had, we are fine, the players are eager. We know our situation, and we have to win.”
Koeman and his team are going into the game with a positive attitude and the mindset to stay as fresh as possible having returned from the international break. It is no secret that the Blaugrana struggle post international break, and so this is a mentality that the Dutch former defender will be looking to change in his side.
With the same attitude, the 58-year-old does not want his side to show any complacency going into this fixture. He said, “We cannot think that it will be an easy game because of the casualties they have. It could end up like that, but it will depend on ourselves.”
Regardless of whether their opponent is Valladolid or Real Madrid, Koeman wants his team to treat every upcoming fixture as the most important one.
The Garnet and the Blue are in a tricky circumstance going into their fixture, with two of their most important players – Messi and de Jong – having the possibility of picking up their fifth yellow card in the league season. If they did, it would mean their suspension for the upcoming season-defining El Classico.
Speaking on this possibility, the Dutch coach said, “We know that Messi and De Jong are close to suspension, but I don’t think it’s time to rest, there are 10 games remaining. The risk always exists, but the players must keep that in mind. I have to put the best team I believe in tomorrow.“
With Joan Laporta having been announced as Barça’s new president shortly before the international break, Koeman took advantage of the free time in order to hold talks with the new president. It is important for the club’s future that both the coach and the president stay aligned on their mission to protect the best interest of the club.
Regarding Laporta, the Dutchman said, “I took advantage of the break to have meetings with the President and his team, to talk about this season and the next one. I won’t talk about players who aren’t ours.”
Additionally, the topic on Messi’s contract renewal – one which has been a very hot one – came up once again during the presser. Regarding this, Koeman said, “Messi’s renewal? It’s a very important matter, we try to do our best so that Leo stays at the club for more years. But right now, we aren’t thinking about next year but about tomorrow’s game.” In each conference that Koeman attends, he displays a consistently applaudable attitude, thinking only about the game at hand and no further.
Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique are two crucial players for the Catalan club that have struggled with injury for most of the season. However, things are finally looking brighter with Roberto’s return nearly guaranteed, and Pique continuously working towards his recovery.
When Koeman was asked about whether they’d be on the squad list, he said, “Piqué and Sergi Roberto are training with the group, they have improved a lot. Whether or not they’ll enter tomorrow’s squad, will be decided tomorrow.” The gaffer wishes to take no unnecessary risks, hopeful that the team can garner all three points tomorrow without having to risk Pique or Roberto’s fitness.
Barcelona B recently hosted Alcoyano at the Johan Cruyff Stadium, winning 2-1 at the hands of a stunning Álex Collado free kick. Koeman was spotted attending the game. When asked on Collado’s future at the club, he said, “He’s an interesting player, like other Barça B players, but it’s a topic for next season… We have to try to make them do well in the promotion playoffs and that’s why Ilaix played with them.”
Additionally, the coach also mentioned how pleasant it was to watch a game at the Johan Cruyff Stadium with a crowd present. He added, “I loved being there, especially because of the atmosphere. There were almost a thousand people, but it makes the players enjoy it. We miss the fans, who always clap and sing.“
With transfer rumours being at an all time high around the Catalan club, Koeman addressed the possibility of future star signings, further clarifying that his focus remains on the current success of the club. He said, “I’m not worried about the names that appear in the press, we have to be focused for the last 10 games.”
Addressing the potential signings of Haaland or Neymar, the coach said, “I don’t know if it’s possible for Haaland or Neymar to come to Barça, the final decision of whether something is possible or not is not up to me, but to the President, based on the economic situation… We talk about how to improve the team and then we’ll see.”
Whether such signings will be possible will only be revealed with the passing of time. However, the Dutchman remains clear that his only worry is that of the upcoming games in the season, and the team’s clear aim to win each and every game if possible. The road to success seems at arm’s length; however, Koeman has to ensure that his team remains absolutely focused if they want any shot of winning the league.
Source: Barça TV+