Koeman talks Alena, Messi, and the salary cuts ahead of Osasuna clash

Head coach Ronald Koeman of FC Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group G stage match between Dynamo Kyiv and FC Barcelona at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on November 24, 2020 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Barcelona will return to the Camp Nou on the back of a sensational display in the UEFA Champions League and will hope to build on that momentum as they face Osasuna in the La Liga.

More often than not, there has been a stark contrast in performances in the Champions League and the La Liga. A sensational display against Juventus is followed up with a draw against Deportivo Alaves; the 5-1 win over Ferencvaros did not help as the Blaugrana fell to Real Madrid in the El Clasico.

With just 11 points in the league so far, out of a possible 24, Barcelona will hope something goes right for them tomorrow, and they are able to leapfrog Osasuna, who have as many points as them. Ronald Koeman sat down for his pre-game presser to address all concerns from the room full of journalists ahead of this game.

The conference started on a positive note, with Koeman sending a message of encouragement to the media.

“We need the three points. A difficult game awaits us, they are going to defend well. We have to create opportunities and score”

Soon, it moved to Sergino Dest, who was reported to have suffered a muscle discomfort, raising questions over his involvement tomorrow. The Dutchman confirmed that he will not risk any player in the team right now with the squad already flooded with injuries.

“Dest had some discomfort in his leg, but it is not a serious matter because he trained well today. If he is not well tomorrow, we will play someone else. We will not risk injuries.”

Speaking of individuals, Lionel Messi has been the one constant source of conversation in every Ronald Koeman pre-game press conference. The Argentine returned to the squad list after being rested against Dynamo Kyiv and is expected to start tomorrow.

“He had a good rest, like Frenkie, who had played almost everything, even with their national team. In order to prevent physical problems, we decided to leave them at home.” Koeman reiterated his own words milliseconds later, “Hopefully tomorrow Messi and De Jong can offer their best because we need them.”

Carles Alena was among the standout performers for Barcelona in midweek, misplacing just one pass throughout the game, attempting over 100 passes. He was deployed out of position, in the double pivot, partnering Miralem Pjanic. Koeman backed his decision to play Aleña in that role, hinting that it might happen again soon with the team hit with a swarm of injuries.

“The system change cost Alena a bit at the beginning of the season, but he is improving a lot to be a pivot for this team. He is changing things he needs to be a Barça midfielder. You have to give him time to improve.”

With Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo out injured for different lengths, we can expect to see one of Frenkie de Jong or Oscar Mingueza start in the heart of the defence. The latter put up an impressive debut in the Champions League, with Koeman dropping hints about his participation tomorrow.

“Mingueza has many chances to play tomorrow.”

Speaking of the injury situation at the club, Koeman did not sound like a happy man, and was almost as frustrated as any other fan of the club would be.

“The Covid situation causes injuries. We need more players and we must also have more luck, because we were not lucky with Ansu nor Piqué, and I hope we do not have more injuries of this type.”

A major topic of conversation was the confirmed salary cuts — a conclusion that followed months of negotiations. The players have agreed to a readjustment in their salaries for the 2020/21 season, which will go a long way to help the club financially. A reporter brought up the question of January signings, and if the salary cuts will help the club in that realm.

“I told Mr. Tusquets that if I can help the club in any way, I was willing to do so. The club has reached an agreement with the players and we are at a time when we have to think about what is best for the club.”

Ronald Koeman has completed 100 days as manager of Barcelona and was asked about this in a two-part question, one which interrogated how the team can improve on the pitch. Koeman’s answer did not surround finishing problems or even a constant lapse in concentration.

“If we maintain our rhythm with the ball, we will be very good. Sometimes we suddenly relax. The team needs to keep a constant level of intensity.”

The pre-game presser ended on a wholesome note from the 57-year-old, who talked about completing a century of days as the manager of Barcelona when he was asked to rate his time till now.

"I don’t give myself a rating, I leave it to you. I have come to this club at a difficult time, and I have had 100 calmer days at another club, but I am very happy to be here.”

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