Barcelona do not fear Real Madrid – Koeman relaxed ahead of El Clasico

By Sports Desk October 23, 2021

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman acknowledged the importance of Sunday's showdown with Real Madrid but insisted he does not feel under any additional pressure to win the match.

Barca head into the first Clasico of the season on the back of victories over Valencia and Dynamo Kiev in LaLiga and the Champions League respectively.

It is the first time this season the Catalans have won successive games and has eased the pressure on Koeman, who has the public backing of president Joan Laporta.

But Koeman's side are paying for a slow start to the campaign as they are down in seventh, two points behind Madrid and five off leaders Real Sociedad with a game in hand.

The Dutchman is no stranger to arguably the most famous fixture in football, having enjoyed a hugely successful stint at Barca as a player, and is aware of the magnitude of Sunday's clash.

"I'm not under any more pressure. Being a Barca coach, I know the importance of what is ahead," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference.

"I have lost and won Clasicos as a player. It is my first as a coach with an audience, which makes it different. I'm hopeful of winning the game.

"Winning is important as it would help us continue to build confidence with all the changes we made and the youngsters that are emerging.

"We work together to improve on the field. I don't feel like this is an exam for us, but it is a Clasico and we have to prove ourselves."

 

Laporta said ahead of the 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid on October 2 that Koeman deserved time to turn things around in what is just his second season at Camp Nou.

Asked if he still feels the support of his president, Koeman said: "I don't have to be told every day that I will continue in the job.

"I feel supported but I know everything depends on results. It's not about a single game, though this is an important week ahead of us and we must be prepared.

Barca have not won any of their last four LaLiga games against Madrid and have lost the last three Clasicos in all competitions – not since 1965 have they lost more in a row.

The Catalans could find themselves five points behind Madrid with a defeat, though a victory would see them overtake their bitter rivals.

"We enter the game in a good mood thanks to two victories," Koeman said. "There is a lot of enthusiasm to play and show our fans we want to win.

"A win in a Clasico can make a lot of difference between the good or bad. We know it's one of the most important games, but there is a long season still ahead.

"We can show we are on the right track, making a positive result very important. We have to play without fear and show our desire to win from the start."

While results have improved for Barca, Madrid have collected just one point from their last two league matches and risk losing successive LaLiga games for the first time since 2018-19.

"I'm a Barca coach, so it is difficult to answer, but I don't see a clear favourite," Koeman said when asked if there is anything to separate the two heavyweights.

"There is a difference in terms of experience, but we also have some experienced players in our squad, while they have some young players, so we are more or less the same.

"There are areas in which they are better than us and others in which we are better than them. We are playing at home and can have no fear. We want to show we're a good team."

Koeman confirmed Jordi Alba is available for selection despite sustaining a knock against Dynamo Kiev, but Pedri, Ronald Araujo, Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele are not part of the squad.

Related items

  • Kimmich to miss remainder of 2021 due to lung problem Kimmich to miss remainder of 2021 due to lung problem

    Bayern Munich will be without Joshua Kimmich for the remainder of 2021 as the midfielder recovers from coronavirus.

    Kimmich, who has not yet been vaccinated against the virus, has not played for Bayern since November 6.

    The 26-year-old was considered a close contact of Bayern team-mate Niklas Sule, who returned a positive PCR test result while on international duty with Germany last month.

    After going through a period of isolation, Kimmich was forced to quarantine again when he was classed as a contact of another suspected COVID-19 case. He then tested positive for the virus himself later in November.

    Kimmich has stated he is unwilling to receive a coronavirus vaccine until more is known about possible long-term effects. 

    Although Kimmich is no longer suffering from COVID-19, Bayern have confirmed he will not return to action until January.

    Kimmich explained this was due to "slight infiltrations" in his lungs, which mean he has been unable to train fully.

    "I'm happy my self-isolation caused by the coronavirus has ended," Kimmich said in a statement released on Bayern's official website.

    "I'm doing very well, but I'm not yet able to train fully due to slight infiltrations in my lungs. I'll therefore do some rehabilitative training and can't wait to be fully back in action in January."

    Bayern, who are having to play their home games behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions imposed in Bavaria, face Mainz, Stuttgart and Wolfsburg before the Bundesliga takes its winter break.

    Julian Nagelsmann's side beat Barcelona 3-0 on Wednesday in the Champions League, a victory that followed up Saturday's contentious 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund.

    That Klassiker success lifted Bayern four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

  • Ashes 2021-22: Lewis defends England selection, Stokes fitness to be assessed Ashes 2021-22: Lewis defends England selection, Stokes fitness to be assessed

    England fast bowling coach Jon Lewis defended the tourists' selection for the first Ashes Test and says Ben Stokes' fitness will be assessed ahead of day three at the Gabba.

    Australia are in command of the series-opener in Brisbane after closing on 343-7 in reply to England's 147 all out, leading by 196 runs.

    Travis Head (112 not out) smashed the third-fastest Ashes century off only 85 balls after David Warner made 94 and Marnus Labuschagne crafted 74 on day two.

    Ollie Robinson was the pick of the England bowlers, taking 3-48, but had to leave the field with a hamstring injury, although the paceman later revealed he had not done serious damage.

    Stokes also sustained a knee injury on a tough day for Joe Root's side in the heat, with spinner Jack Leach's 11 overs going for 95.

    But Lewis says the selectors did not feel they ought to have played an extra seamer.

    "We looked at the pitch on the day before the game and the morning of the game and decided to go with the make-up of the team that we have," he told reporters.

    "That's what we felt was the right decision at the time, and I think if we'd have all bowled to the best of our ability, we would have put Australia under a bit more pressure than we did today.

    "We still took several Australian wickets. We are a bit behind in the game; however, like I said to the lads before, I know the guys will come back fighting in the next few days."

    Lewis was unable to shed any light on the extent of the damage Stokes has done.

    Asked about the all-rounder's injury, he replied: "I don't know, I don't assess players, I'm not part of the medical team. We'll see how he pulls up in the morning."

    Stokes bowled Warner for 17, but the opener was reprieved as England's vice-captain had over-stepped.

    Warner was also dropped by Rory Burns on 48 and should have been run out when he had 60 to his name on a bad day for the tourists in the field.

  • Rennes return to France following Spurs postponement Rennes return to France following Spurs postponement

    Rennes have confirmed their squad is returning to France after their Europa Conference League match with Tottenham was postponed.

    Spurs stated on Wednesday that Thursday's encounter with the Ligue 1 side at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium had been called off due to an outbreak of COVID-19 within Antonio Conte's squad.

    Conte said that eight players and five members of staff had contracted the virus in what he labelled a "serious problem".

    Spurs have reportedly asked the Premier League to postpone Sunday's meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion.

    However, Rennes released a statement on Wednesday claiming Tottenham had made a "unilateral" decision to postpone Thursday's clash without UEFA ratification.

    Confirmation from the governing body has now been given to Rennes, though, with the visiting club's squad and coaching staff travelling back to France following full negative coronavirus test results.

    In a statement published on their official website, Rennes, who play Nice on Sunday, made clear that the rearranged fixture must not further congest a hectic schedule or disrupt their mid-season break.

    The statement read: "After being informed of the cancellation of tonight's match by UEFA, Stade Rennais FC decided to return to Brittany. The entire delegation that will board at London City Airport has tested negative.

    "Stade Rennais FC hope that the interests of the club will be respected given the important sporting deadlines that await the Rouge et Noir this December. 

    "Stade Rennais FC is deeply sorry for the Rennes fans who decided to come to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to cheer on the Rouge et Noir."

    Rennes have two Ligue 1 matches and one Coupe de France game before they take a break over Christmas, resuming their season on January 8.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.