Ronald Koeman believes Lionel Messi is happy at Barcelona after another record-breaking performance by the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Messi scored the third goal in a 3-0 LaLiga win over Real Valladolid on Tuesday – the superstar captain's 644th strike for Barca as he surpassed Pele for the all-time record amount of goals for a single club.

First-half goals from Clement Lenglet and Martin Braithwaite gave Barca a cushion at Estadio Jose Zorrilla before Messi overtook the record set by Pele during 18 years at Brazilian club Santos.

Although Messi expressed his desire to leave LaLiga giants Barca after 19 years during the off-season, Koeman believes his talisman is now happy.

"I've said it a lot," Barca head coach Koeman said. "I see Leo happy here.

"He's very important for us with his creativity.

"You can see that when there are good players alongside him."

Koeman switched to a three-man back line for the trip to Valladolid after Barca's defence were left exposed in the 2-2 draw against Valencia on Saturday.

Barca kept the hosts subdued until goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a double save in the 71st minute when the Catalans were holding a comfortable three-goal lead.

"We changed to improve the defence and the wings," Dutchman Koeman added.

"We've seen a very serious performance with good concentration and good chances created."

Pedri provided the delivery for Lenglet's opener and claimed his second assist with return pass to Messi, as Koeman reserved praise for both the 18-year-old and his midfield partner Miralem Pjanic.

"Pedri is a very good player when he plays in the middle," said Koeman. "Pjanic had to wait for his chance but he played a great game. He was good with the ball, but also defensively."

Fifth-placed Barca are eight points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, with Koeman's side scheduled to host struggling Eibar on December 29. 

Lionel Messi surpassed Pele's one-club goals record as he helped Barcelona end their winless streak on the road in LaLiga with a convincing 3-0 victory over struggling Real Valladolid.

Having drawn level with Pele's haul of 643 goals for Santos with a header in a 2-2 draw with Valencia on Saturday, Messi made it 644 in Barca colours across all competitions on Tuesday.

Having created Clement Lenglet's opener before playing a key part in Martin Braithwaite making it 2-0 before the interval, Messi swept home from Pedri's clever flick in the 65th minute.

It rounded off a fine performance from Ronald Koeman's side, who ended their winless run in LaLiga away games at the fifth time of asking.

Zinedine Zidane was frustrated by Ronald Koeman's complaints about refereeing decisions in Real Madrid's favour, insisting he would never engage in such a debate. 

Barcelona coach Koeman said on Monday he could not understand the failure to award a penalty to Eibar late in their 3-1 defeat to Madrid. 

Eibar trailed by just a single goal at the time when the ball appeared to strike Sergio Ramos on the arm inside the penalty area. 

No spot-kick was given and the on-field decision was not reviewed, a call Koeman claimed nine out of 10 people would disagree with. 

These comments were relayed to Zidane on Tuesday, to which he replied: "It has been annoying because I never get involved with the referees. 

"I think the referees are in charge of the game and they do a good job. Like everyone here, they just try to do their job. I never get involved with them. It's a very difficult job. 

"What Koeman said I'm not going to get into that. We have an important game tomorrow [against Granada], a very demanding game, and that's the only thing we're thinking about."

In fact, Zidane believes decisions go against Madrid more often than not. 

The reigning champions have won just two penalties in LaLiga this term, half as many as Barca (four) and well short of Real Sociedad's league-leading seven. 

At the other end of the pitch, Madrid have conceded five spot-kicks, trailing only Real Betis (seven) and Real Valladolid (six) in this regard. 

"It's true that in every game we are unlucky with penalties, but I'm not too focused on that really," Zidane told the media. 

"The only thing we're interested in is tomorrow's game. That's what interests us. It's very important to us. We have to be concentrated. 

"The most important thing for us is just to keep doing what we're doing now. We're in very good form and [will] try to win all three points tomorrow." 

Zidane was also asked about the news of Iker Casillas returning to the club as assistant to the general director at the Real Madrid Foundation. 

The Frenchman said: "We know the person Iker is, we know what he has done, we know what he means for being a Madridista. I think it's good news for everyone. 

"It's his club, the club that's in his heart, and he's going to work and going to continue to do what he knows. I'm very happy for him and for the club. I think it's very good news indeed."

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said he cannot understand how Real Madrid avoided conceding a crucial late penalty in their win against Eibar.

Zinedine Zidane's side clung on for a 3-1 victory after Lucas Vazquez's stoppage-time strike clinched all three points at Municipal de Ipurua.

Karim Benzema and Luka Modric had fired the Spanish champions into a two-goal lead inside 13 minutes before Kike hit back for the home side before the half-hour mark.

Eibar were pushing for a late equaliser when the hosts had appeals for a penalty turned down after the ball appeared to strike the arm of Sergio Ramos inside the penalty area.

Eibar head coach Jose Luis Mendilibar fumed about the incident, which was not reviewed by referee Jose Luis Munuera Montero.

Madrid's fifth straight win in all competitions left them level on points with Atletico but Koeman hinted Los Blancos were fortunate.

"The day of the Madrid match, I said something that doesn't need to be repeated," Koeman said.

"I think there are things that cannot be understood. I'm sure that if you ask 10 people if yesterday's game is a penalty, nine will say yes.

"The referee and his team have decided not to call it. But, well, we know."

Following Barca’s 2-2 draw against Valencia at Camp Nou, Koeman’s side sit fifth in the LaLiga table, eight points behind Atleti and Madrid.

The Catalans face 18th-placed Real Valladolid on Tuesday at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

Lionel Messi's motivation and hunger to succeed at Barcelona has never been in question, according to head coach Ronald Koeman.

The Argentina international failed in his attempt to engineer a move away from Camp Nou during the close-season but is set to become a free agent at the end of the campaign.

He has not always been at his best this season and has admitted in a new interview with LaSexta that the saga surrounding his future has affected his performances.

"The truth is today I'm fine," Messi said in a short excerpt released by RAC1 on Monday. "Today I'm fine and I feel like fighting seriously for everything we have ahead of us.

"I'm excited. I know the club is going through a difficult time, at club and team level, and it is difficult everything that surrounds Barcelona but I'm looking forward to it."

Messi has gradually improved as 2020-21 has gone on and has five goals in his last seven LaLiga matches, having failed to score or assist in five matches in October.

The superstar forward's comments were welcomed by Koeman but the Dutchman insists he never doubted Messi's determination to succeed after seeing his exit blocked.

"I don't need to see the Messi interview to know just how hungry and motivated he still is," Koeman said at a news conference previewing Tuesday's LaLiga trip to Real Valladolid.
 
"I see him with his team-mates every day. It's tough for any player who has won as much as him to not win every match he plays.

"But the squad is very united, albeit unhappy with the results. Leo is integrated in the side and helping us to improve things."

Messi's goal in Saturday's 2-2 home draw with Valencia was his 643rd for Barcelona, equalling Santos great Pele's one-club goals record.

Barca are eight points adrift of Atletico Madrid having played a game more than the leaders and are winless in four away league matches, last going five without a win in 2008.

Koeman accepts that results have to improve, with the under-fire head coach putting his side's inconsistent results down to a high turnover of youngsters in the first team.

"We have changed a lot of things," he said. "With younger players come a bit of irregularity. For the future it is a good thing but at Barca we have to win titles.

"It is a complicated situation we are in and time is needed, but we are Barcelona and we want to win.

"We will need to have maximum concentration against Valladolid. Every game we do not win is a step backwards for us.

"There are many games ahead in which many things can happen. We have lost a few away games and cannot fail again. There is pressure on the team to close the gap."

Ousmane Dembele is back in full training following another spell on the sidelines with a hamstring issue aggravated earlier this month.

However, Koeman confirmed the France international will play no part at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla, while Gerard  Pique, Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto are also out.

Barca have won 12 of their last 13 LaLiga games against Valladolid, their only defeat in that run coming in March 2014.

Ronald Koeman has put Barcelona's 2-2 draw with Valencia down to a lack of concentration from his players, rather than a problem with their attitude.

Barca were held at Camp Nou in Saturday's entertaining LaLiga clash and are now eight points adrift of Atletico Madrid having played a game more than the leaders.

Mouctar Diakhaby scored a free header to give Valencia the lead – a joint-high fourth league goal Barca have conceded from a corner this term along with Huesca – but Lionel Messi equalised and young defender Ronald Araujo put the hosts in front.

Maxi Gomez profited from yet more slack defending 21 minutes from time to score against the Catalan giants for a fourth game running, however, as Valencia became the seventh team to stop their opponents winning in 13 games this term.

Koeman did not want to blame any individuals following this latest setback but conceded his side switched off too easily for Valencia's goals.

"It was a difficult game. We fought back but have to be more focused," he told Movistar. "We had chances but weren't focused on some other actions, and the opponents defended well.

"We made more of an effort in the second half to win the game but didn't create as many chances as we wanted. It was an irregular game from us; we lost balls in areas that were dangerous.

"I don't think it was to do with an attitude problem. There was an irregularity to the whole game. We lost balls and doubted ourselves.

"We also know we have problems with set-pieces. You have to get above your opponent, but we have smaller players."

Barca had won their previous two matches, against Levante and Real Sociedad, but now face a massive battle in chasing down Atletico and the rest of the title challengers.

"We would have liked to have won all of the games," Koeman said. "The problem is not today's draw but that we lost four or five other games and that's why this draw seems worse.

"There are a lot of points left [to be won]. It's a very tough season. In two months, everything could be different. We have to fight to make up the points difference."

Koeman made one change from the 2-1 victory over Sociedad, bringing in Philippe Coutinho for Frenkie de Jong in what was an attack-minded starting line-up featuring Messi, Martin Braithwaite, Pedri, Antoine Griezmann and Coutinho.

Sergio Busquets, the sole holding midfielder, picked up a knock and was replaced by De Jong at half-time.

Explaining his team selection, Koeman said: "Frenkie had discomfort in training yesterday and we couldn't risk him from the beginning, according to the doctors.

"We had to leave him on the bench until the break. I changed things around and brought off Busquets, but not because he was having a bad game."

Messi's goal was his 643rd for Barcelona, taking him level with Santos great Pele for the number of goals scored for a single club.

The Argentina international managed 10 shots in total and had a penalty saved by Jaume Domenech, but he headed in from two yards in the aftermath to bring up his landmark goal.

"We know all about his impressive career," Koeman said. "It is another very good achievement."

However, Valencia head coach Javi Gracia questioned whether a penalty should have been awarded for Jose Gaya's perceived push on Griezmann with Valencia a goal ahead at the time.

The referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez initially showed Gaya a red card before downgrading that to a yellow after checking the pitchside monitor, but Gracia feels the spot-kick should also have been rescinded at a pivotal moment in a tight game.

"Justice does not exist in football," he said. "It is always difficult to assess the referee's performance. The goal just before half-time did us a lot of damage. 

"But the team's personality was clear to see again. I am proud of my players."

Ronald Koeman insists the atmosphere within Barcelona's dressing room has always been positive despite their indifferent start to the campaign.

Barca are six points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid in LaLiga having already lost four of their 12 top-flight matches under Koeman, who replaced Quique Setien in the close season.

Los Cules were beaten by rivals Real Madrid and Atletico, as well as suffering surprise defeats to Getafe and Cadiz.

But Barca put on a much-improved showing in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad in midweek and Koeman says wins are bound to improve the mood among the squad.

"I have always seen a good atmosphere, despite the lost games. It is easier to have an atmosphere of joy when you win," Koeman said ahead of Saturday's contest with Valencia.

"With the game without the ball we were good. Sometimes it depends on the opponent, but if you play a lot of long balls you cannot press.

"The game was good to be able to put pressure on the opponent. We did well. We liked having that energy and that pressure. It depends on the opponent, but we always want to dominate and play at the top, sometimes it works out and sometimes not.

"Hopefully we continue in this dynamic. It is important to have a home game and win.

"Sometimes it's easier, if you play well and win, the atmosphere is different. It's normal, it happens in all teams.

"I see a united group, but it's always easier for the press to get comments, because they don't see what happens in the dressing room before and after games."

Koeman had a brief spell in charge of Valencia from October 2007 to April 2008, during which time Los Che won the Copa del Rey but struggled in the league.

Reflecting on his time at the club, Koeman said: "I will not have the best memory of my career there. I made decisions, maybe I was wrong.

"It was a short stay but at least we won something. It is a complicated place, with many changes of coaches and sometimes missing peace of mind to work there."

Barca have two games before a week without fixtures for the Christmas period, but they then face a run of five matches from December 29 to January 13.

The congested fixture list will worsen if Barca win their Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Sociedad at the end of that hectic five-game run, and Koeman vented his frustration at the scheduling - impacted this term by the delay caused to last season by the coronavirus pandemic.

"I still think the same thing. The calendar is crazy. If we win the Supercopa semi-final there is one more game, many late hours," he said.

"At least in Granada [on January 9] we play in the afternoon, but we are killing the players."

That is a claim Koeman is now repeatedly making, having made the same accusation last week, and coaches from various leagues across Europe have raised similar concerns.

"On trips, we get home very late, and two days later another trip and another game," Koeman said.

"We have to solve this issue in a very tight season."

Ronald Koeman believes Barcelona's "attitude and intensity" in the 2-1 LaLiga victory against Real Sociedad proved they can recover from their early-season struggles.

Barca head coach Koeman hailed his team display as Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong's goals earned a 23rd successive home league win against Sociedad.

Koeman's Barca controlled from the kick-off but were not able to record a shot on goal in the first 25 minutes, as the home side fell behind to Willian Jose's 27th-minute effort at Camp Nou.

But two goals in the space of 12 minutes before flipped the game in Barca's favour and Koeman insisted his players showed the characteristics needed to improve on their patchy form.

"With this attitude and this intensity we will be where we should be," Koeman said post-match.

"[It was] surely the best first half [of the season]. We were good with the ball and we pressed well....

"The second half Real played a great game. It was a high-level clash with a lot of intensity."

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman insisted the LaLiga giants will never have a player like Lionel Messi as the superstar stands on the cusp of equalling Pele's record.

Messi is within one goal of matching Pele's one-club goals record ahead of Wednesday's showdown against leaders Real Sociedad.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has netted 642 goals for Barca across all competitions following his strike in last week's 1-0 victory over Levante.

On the looming record, Koeman told reporters of the 33-year-old attacker: "Well, [Messi's] stats are amazing. I don't think we'll ever have another player at this club who has given that much in terms of effectiveness.

"That's why he is the number one. He is a very important player, as we saw the other day [against Levante]. Our attack depends a lot on Leo.

"They are big stats… I don't know how many hat-tricks he has scored already. Once again, it is unbelievable what he has done for this club."

Messi has been involved in 14 goals in his 10 home LaLiga games against Sociedad (10 goals and four assists), including registering four goals and two assists in his past five such appearances against the club in the top flight.

Barca – eighth in the table and nine points off the pace – have won their past 22 LaLiga games on home soil against Sociedad.

Koeman's men could equal their longest ever winning run at home to Sociedad in the competition (23 between 1929 and 1961).

Ronald Koeman is anticipating a "beautiful and open" game against Real Sociedad, who he believes have enough quality to win LaLiga.

La Real are top of LaLiga having collected 26 points from their first 13 games – their highest tally at this stage of the season since they amassed 29 points early in the 2002/03 campaign and ultimately finished second.

Barca are nine points back in eighth after a difficult start, but they can take comfort from a wonderful record against the Basque side at Camp Nou.

Victory on Wednesday would be their 23rd consecutive triumph against Sociedad on home soil, equalling their longest winning run against them in LaLiga, achieved between 1929 and 1961.

Koeman praised the work of counterpart Imanol Alguacil and acknowledged his own Barca side – who squeezed past Levante 1-0 at the weekend – will have to be at their best to get anything out of the game.

"I think it will be an open game," Koeman told a media conference. "Last year it was open. They are two teams that want to have the ball and put pressure on. I expect an open and beautiful game."

Asked if La Real could win LaLiga, Koeman said: "At the moment, yes. It's a very good team. You can tell that they have been together for several seasons.

"I like how they play. I understand that we have to be very good, with confidence and with the ball to hurt them.

"It's down to the coach. He has a game system, he has very good players with the ball and the team's structure, wanting to play from behind and wanting to push, is good.

"They have many things that I like, but so do we. Their trajectory is not from just now, it comes from previous years. They are doing a great job."

Barca have now won their last three LaLiga games at home – their best run under Koeman – after claiming victory in just two of their previous six at Camp Nou in the competition.

While the Dutchman says the win over Levante gives his side some breathing space, he concedes their form this season has been far from acceptable.

"In general, we cannot be happy with our trajectory in the championship," Koeman added. "We have lost when we should not lose, but you have to see the team, how it works.

"The other day we got a very important result, in a very difficult game. We lacked things, but the attitude was good. Those three points give us peace of mind for tomorrow.

"Of course, I want the team to play better and get better results. We have had things go against us, like injuries to important people.

"There are always outside factors, but I think we have to be more consistent. We cannot train a lot because the calendar is very tight and affects freshness."

Ronald Koeman felt his Barcelona side showed fighting spirit to get their LaLiga campaign back on track with a 1-0 victory against Levante.

Barca looked set for another sapping result in a dreadful week, after a 3-0 Champions League loss at home to Juventus followed a 2-1 LaLiga setback against Cadiz.

But a familiar hero stepped forward on Sunday, with Lionel Messi dispatching Frenkie De Jong's throughball 14 minutes from time.

Messi has been involved in 37 goals in his LaLiga career against Levante (22 goals and 15 assists), more than against any other team in the competition.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored 449 goals in LaLiga and he is just one shy of becoming the first player to reach 450 with just one club in the top five European leagues.

"It's true it was a very complicated game today. We created a lot of chances and we did improve as the game went on," Koeman told LaLiga TV after Barca cut the gap between themselves, and Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid at the summit to nine points.

"We were better in the second half because we pushed higher up the pitch and won a lot of balls back. We still created as well.

"But we still struggled to take the lead. I think it's a deserved victory and very hard-earned victory as well."

Levante gave a shaky Barcelona defence plenty to think about during the first half, with Jorge de Frutos and Dani Gomez each spurning good chances,

"We weren't expecting a game where they pressed us as much as they did but we knew that could happen, especially with so many balls being played around the midfield area," Koeman said.

"There were moments where we played well but we do have to admit that they had two very clear chances in the first half.

"During the game we did change our formation and pushed a little bit higher and I think we were better in the second 45."

The former Netherlands coach has been criticised by some sections of the Barcelona fanbase and media for the perceived conservatism of his 4-2-3-1 setup.

Throwing on an extra centre-back in Samuel Umtiti in place of Antoine Griezmann for the closing minutes invited further mirth from his detractors but Koeman felt the ends justified the means.

"If there's little bit left in the game and the opponent is throwing players forward, it's better to shore up the defence, particularly from set plays," he added, with a crunch midweek clash versus Sociedad at Camp Nou next on the agenda.

"It was very important for us to win. We had to win and hopefully this helps us with our confidence."

Lionel Messi stepped up to salvage something from the wreckage of Barcelona's nightmare week as he fired a 76th-minute winner in a 1-0 win over Levante.

Juventus comprehensively beat Barca 3-0 in midweek to deny them top spot in their Champions League group - a reverse that came on the back of a 2-1 LaLiga loss at Cadiz.

Despite ceding possession as expected for long periods, Levante looked set to hold out for a result to pile further pressure on embattled head coach Ronald Koeman.

Plenty of questions over the Dutchman's stewardship of Barcelona will remain, but Messi surging onto Frenkie De Jong's perfectly weighted throughball for an assured finish will buy him a little breathing space.

Koeman opted for experience at a time of adversity, recalling Sergio Busquets and Philippe Coutinho to his starting line-up, and the latter blazed over from Sergino Dest's first-minute cross.

Barca's vulnerabilities were on show soon enough, as Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved with his feet to thwart former Real Madrid youngster Jorge de Frutos.

Ter Stegen's opposite number Aitor Fernandez denied maligned forward duo Martin Braithwaite and Griezmann, although Roger Marti again unpicked the hosts as Dani Gomez thrashed over.

Clement Lenglet should have scored when Fernandez parried Griezmann's header from Messi's 21st-minute free-kick, with the Levante goalkeeper's finest work of the first half coming five minutes before the interval.

He reacted sharply when Griezmann volleyed through a crowd of players on the end of Messi's chipped cross.

Mickael Malsa got back to make a vital sliding challenge as Messi's old link-up with Jordi Alba almost bore fruit and Levante were increasingly pegged into their own box during the early stages of the second half.

There were few clear chances to show for that dominance, with Fernandez frustrating Messi twice more at close quarters.

Only when De Jong carved out space for Messi to run in behind a tiring Levante backline was the duel decisively settled.

What does it mean? One down, three to go

Koeman labelled Barcelona's three consecutive home games this week as must-win encounters. A more emphatic statement here would have been helpful, but another three points at the expense of surprise leaders Real Sociedad would make things look a lot rosier in the title race.

Barcelona go eighth, nine points shy of Imanol Alguacil's pacesetters and Atletico Madrid, who lost to Real Madrid in El Derbi on Saturday. Atleti and Barca have each played two games fewer than La Real.

What's next

Valencia visit Camp Nou next Saturday after Barcelona's midweek appointment with Real Sociedad, who are also the next LaLiga opponents for third-bottom Levante. First, Paco Lopez's men must tackle Racing Murcia in the Copa del Rey.

Ronald Koeman admits he is worried about Barcelona as the cash-strapped, out-of-form, ill-at-ease Camp Nou giants approach the end of a dismal year.

With an interim president in place after Josep Maria Bartomeu walked, the club's finances dealt a shattering blow by the pandemic, and the upcoming January elections perhaps the defining moment that will shape captain Lionel Messi's future, Barca are in a state of dizzying flux.

Koeman could be battling for his job before long too.

Results on the pitch have been far from what Barcelona expected this season, with Koeman's team losing four of their opening 10 LaLiga games.

As the presidential candidates scramble for popularity, retaining the status quo on the playing side of the club might not be the biggest vote-winner.

Koeman knows there is frustration among the fans, and he said: "I understand them. They have been winning titles and at the top for a long time and now they see us lose to Getafe or Cadiz.

"The situation is complicated at the club and may change in January with the new president.

"Until then, we'll try to get the most out of the team. I don't need support, I accept that the culprit is the coach when there aren't good results. No problem."

Koeman at least believes he has the backing of the players.

"I think so, because I couldn't work without their trust," he said. "I feel comfortable.

"Of course I'm worried about the trajectory. We try to improve, and there is time to react.

"We are in a difficult time at the club, and not only because of the sporting issue. We are looking for the best in every way and I see that the squad are eager and know where we have to go."

Barcelona have been highly erratic so far in 2020-21, and no teams have higher numbers than their total of errors leading to shots (6) and errors leading to goals (3) so far in LaLiga.

They have had more possession than any other side in the Spanish top flight - 63.45 per cent across their games so far - but have failed to put it to efficient use.

Koeman's team have created 111 chances, beaten only by Sevilla (120) and Real Madrid (119), yet the flaws in their game are more conspicuous than the achievements.

Koeman claimed his team had carved out the most opportunities, but Opta data shows that is not quite the case.

The Dutchman, one of Barcelona's finest players in his day, has a thin squad and he pointed to pushing youngsters into action out of necessity bringing stresses and strains.

However, he sees no reason to bring a psychologist into the club. Many teams and individuals across a wide range of sports have benefited from taking such steps, but Koeman feels it would be a bad fit at Barcelona.

"The team have enough personality and experience," said the former Everton and Netherlands boss, whose team play Levante on Sunday.

"I don't believe in psychologists and mental things. If you are at Barca you have to overcome the pressure."

Ronald Koeman dismissed the suggestion Barcelona may have hit "rock bottom" as they head into a critical three-game run at Camp Nou.

Successive home games against Levante, Real Sociedad and Valencia will test Barcelona's resolve to salvage their season from the tightening grip of failure.

On Sunday they tackle a Levante side who have lost on all 14 of their previous LaLiga trips to Barcelona's home.

Yet nothing feels off the table heading into that game, given Koeman's side have been a shadow of Barcelona teams gone by during the opening months of the season.

A 2-1 defeat at Cadiz last Saturday was followed on Tuesday by a 3-0 home loss to Juventus in the Champions League, a result that saw the Italians snatch top spot from Barca in Group G.

Barcelona sat ninth in the table heading into this weekend, albeit with games in hand over several of the teams above them.

It led to Koeman admitting a defeat for pace-setters Atletico Madrid against Real Madrid in the derby on Saturday night would be a good result for the Blaugrana.

When it was put to him in his pre-game news conference that Barcelona may have fallen as low as they can possibly go, Koeman said: "The team is inconsistent. Hitting rock bottom is worse than we are.

"We had a great game away against Juventus and the same thing happened to us at home. If we improve the details we will win the games."

Barcelona's 2-0 win at Juventus came six weeks ago, but the home defeat to the Italians led to concerns rising about Koeman's side.

The head coach knows himself how important home comforts could prove over the coming week.

He predicts Levante will look to "squeeze" Barcelona, adding: "It is an important week with three games at home and we have to win all three."

Asked about Saturday night's Madrid derby, Koeman said: "Looking at the table, it's better for Atletico to lose."

Koeman frowned on claims that the Barcelona players are unhappy with his style of play and preferred 4-2-3-1 setup.

"The other day it came out that the dressing room wanted a different system and it's not true, because I would know it," the Dutchman said.

Barcelona have lost two of their past five LaLiga games against Levante (W3), double the number of defeats they suffered against them in their previous 23 matches in the competition, which yielded 18 wins, four draws and a solitary reverse.

At home, Barcelona have scored 48 goals and conceded just nine in their 14-game winning streak against Sunday's visitors.

Only Granada, who have lost on all 24 LaLiga visits to Camp Nou, have a worse record at Barcelona.

Yet Levante are unbeaten in six, albeit drawing five of those games before beating Getafe 3-0 last time out. They last reached seven unbeaten games in LaLiga between January and March in 2014, when they extended that to eight without defeat (W4 D4).

They sat 18th going into the weekend and Koeman's side should have enough to take the points, particularly if Lionel Messi steps up.

Barcelona's record scorer has been involved in at least one goal in each of his previous nine appearances against Levante in the league - registering 12 goals and 10 assists in that period.

Should Messi and Barcelona miss out this time, the cold chill of rock bottom will feel an awful lot closer for Koeman.

Lionel Messi had a record seven shots on target without scoring in Barcelona's 3-0 Champions League defeat to Juventus, which Antoine Griezmann acknowledged must be a wake-up call.

Messi was heavily involved as Barca attempted to mount a comeback on Tuesday after conceding twice in the first 20 minutes of a Champions League home match for the first time.

The superstar captain had more touches (125) and contested more duels (19) than any other player on the Camp Nou pitch.

Messi also sent in 11 shots, seven of which hit the target, but he could not beat veteran Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whose shirt the former took away at full-time.

Instead it was old rival Cristiano Ronaldo who carried his side to the top of Champions League Group G, scoring two penalties either side of Weston McKennie's volley.

Those were Ronaldo's first goals against Barca in the competition after drawing a blank on five occasions.

It was Messi's turn to fall short in front of goal as, since Opta records began in 2003-04, no other player has had seven efforts on target without finding the net.

However, Messi was the only Barca player to actually test Buffon, with eight of the nine attempts from his team-mates missing the target and Martin Braithwaite seeing the other blocked.

Griezmann accounted for three wayward efforts and did not hold back in his criticism of a blunt Barca performance.

"There was a lack of desire, of attitude. It was all wrong," he said. "A bad day, a bad game.

"The fault lies with the players - we are the ones who play. We have to work. We have to win on Sunday [against Levante] because it gets more complicated for us if not.

"Today has been very ugly. We have the level to fight for our objectives. This is a blow, but it comes in handy to wake us up."

Barca head coach Ronald Koeman added: "We started the game badly, without aggression. It seemed that we were playing not to lose. We were not in control.

"We have not been good defensively. We lost the game in the first half hour. I always try to prepare the game, how they have to go. We left spaces.

"You can also discuss penalties. For me, the first is not a penalty. But it was our fault."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.