Barcelona coach, Ronald Koeman has said his team is believed to be in better form than any other team as they will be locking on with French giants, Paris Saint Germain going in a Champions League tie today.
The Catalan giants emphatically defeated Alaves in La Liga last Saturday,5-1 it ended- will host PSG in the first leg of the UCL round of 16. Barca is on a seven-game unbeaten run, though they fell before Sevilla in the first lap of the Copa del Rey semis last week.
The Dutch manager has waived down the opportunity for Barca to make waves in all competitions this season due to the catastrophic start they had under Quique Seiten.
But, the former Everton manager is optimistic as the team witnessed a turnaround when he came on board
“I don’t see other teams much better than Barcelona at the moment,” he said in a news conference
He said it is not proper to be playing a young squad in a competition like the UCL, as much experience is needed to survive in the most European prestigious contest
“But I don’t think it is good if you are changing a lot of things in the team and playing with young players to expect to win the Champions League. That’s not good.” he said emphatically.
Koeman boasted of how good the team is recently, parading some fantastic players who can beat some top guns in Europe.
“We have a good team, though. The team is doing better and playing at a high level. They are at a high level physically, too. And we have fantastic players, which means we can beat everyone and that’s what we want to show by competing with the best teams in Europe.”
Recall that the Spanish side will be missing some key players like Philippe Coutinho, Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto, and Ronald Araujo, but Gerard Pique will be on the squad ahead of the UCL tie.
Pique was sidelined due to a knee injury he sustained last December, the Spaniard has returned to training last week, but Koeman said the former Manchester United defender should take his time to gain match fitness
In tandem, Neymar Jr. will not be with the Mauricio Pochenttino led side when facing Barca, but all attention will be on Kylian Mbappe to help PSG become victor against the side from Nou Camp for the first time.
But Koeman has removed the notion that the crucial tie is between Messi and Mbappe, stressing that the game is between top European teams
“It is not just a duel between Messi and Mbappe. It is a game between two teams and one of those teams has the best player in the world, Messi, on their side. We need him in his best form for the tie.”
“It is the same for Paris with Mbappe, who is a really good, quick player, who can make it hard for our defence. But it’s nice, these players are to be enjoyed as a football fan.”
PSG is an admirer of Messi, linking a move for the Argentine when his contract expires this year. But Messi‘s transfer has been a means of distraction to Nou Camp.
However, both Ronald Koeman and Jordi Alba said the transfer saga between Barca and PSG has never affected the club, stressing that Messi remains committed to the club.
“They haven’t destabilised us; I don’t know if that was the intention from them when speaking about Leo,” Ronald Koeman said.
“Even if I did know for sure what Leo was going to do, I wouldn’t say openly! He has already said what his intention is [to wait until the end of the season].”
“He will make the decision he has to make but right now he is committed to Barcelona, wants to have a great season and from there I hope we can win a trophy and then Leo will decide.
“I am sure the decision he makes will be well thought out and the best one for him. I hope he stays for many years but it is a decision for Leo and we must respect whatever he decides. But right now he is focused on Barcelona.” he ended