Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has come in for criticism for comments he has made ahead of his team’s Champions League group stage fixture against Benfica on Wednesday, September 29.
Koeman told Movistar that Barcelona are unable to compete with top teams currently because the team are in transition following the departures of key attackers such as Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.
“You have to be realistic,” he said. “Today, with the changes we are making with the team, it is difficult to keep up with the big teams.”
Koeman’s comments have not impressed Barcelona reporters who have criticized the Dutchman’s negative attitude ahead of an important game for the Catalan giants in Europe’s top competition.
Squawka Football’s Muhammad Butt is already looking forward to life without Koeman at Barcelona.
Barcelona writer Kevin Williams explained why he believes Koeman should not be making such statements in public even if the Dutchman does believe he’s just being honest.
La Liga TV’s Andy West also joined the conversation and thinks Koeman is not doing himself any favors with his words.
Barcelona head into the match against Benfica after a morale-boosting 3-0 win over Levante in La Liga but currently bottom of Group E with zero points after kicking off their European campaign with a 3-0 defeat to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.
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Araujo Urges Barcelona to Challenge
Koeman’s comments were in sharp contrast to those of center-back Ronald Araujo who spoke to reporters at Barcelona’s pre-match press conference on Wednesday before the trip to Portugal.
The 22-year-old center-back, who is rapidly emerging as a key player for the Catalan giants, says his side simply have to challenge for trophies at home and abroad this season, as reported by Diario Sport.
“We aspire to everything, we are Barça. We cannot sit back and see what happens, we must go to win and try to win the maximum number of titles we can,” he told reporters. “We are going to win. We had a great game against Levante. We were able to extend the score even more. It gives us more encouragement and courage. We have a great team. We have to win as many titles as possible this season.”
Araujo is expected to return to the starting XI against Benfica in central defense alongside either Gerard Pique or Eric Garcia.
Benfica Still Unbeaten
Barcelona will face a tough challenge up against a Benfica side that is yet to taste defeat so far in the Portuguese top flight. Jorge Jesus’s side top the standings with a perfect record after seven games which will breed confidence.
Benfica director Simao Sabrosa, who played for both clubs during his career, has offered his thoughts on the match and knows the hosts are in good shape for the visit of the Catalan giants, as reported by Mundo Deportivo.
“It has been a very good season. We have not lost any games yet. It leaves us calm in terms of work, we are at an optimal level, but we know that all Champions League teams are difficult,” he said. “The truth is that Benfica is doing well. We have not lost, we have scored many goals and we have conceded few. We are where we want to be and where you should be, among the best.”
Yet Barca will also be feeling good after Sunday’s La Liga win over Levante and have also been boosted by the triumphant return of Ansu Fati who scored on his return after over 10 months out with a knee injury.