Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has warned his players not to go “crazy” against Real Madrid on Saturday in La Liga in what is a crucial match for both sides in the race for the title.
The two giants of Spanish football renew their rivalry on Saturday with both clubs knowing a victory will provide a big boost as they bid to hunt down leaders Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona heads into the match in second place and just one point off the top, while Real Madrid sits two points behind the Catalan giants in third and can leapfrog Koeman’s side with a victory.
Koeman spoke about the crunch clash on Friday at a pre-match press conference and had some simple advice for his players who are on a 19-match unbeaten run in La Liga, as reported by Sport.
“The team has run into good form, playing with a lot of energy and that’s what I ask for tomorrow,” he said. “Not to go crazy because it’s the Clasico or it’s Madrid, but to be ourselves. That’s the message from me. The opposition are a good team but we have to do things our way, as we have done recently.”
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Koeman Talks Improving Barca
The Barcelona boss also hailed his team for the improvements they have made since the first Clasico between the two sides earlier this season. Real Madrid ran out 3-1 winners at the Camp Nou in October but Koeman says his team are better now.
“In certain aspects, the team has improved. In the period of the first Clasico, the team was good. I remember we were better, above all before halftime and had chances to take the lead. We lost the game in the second half, the VAR, the penalty.” he said. “I think we’ve improved things, but it’s not true that we were poor then and now we’re much better. We are more effective now and we’ve improved in defense, the system can also change.
Yet Real Madrid is also a team in form. Los Blanco enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 win over Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in midweek and have gone nine games without defeat
Messi to Make the Difference?
All eyes will once again be on Lionel Messi on Saturday. The captain is the Clasico’s all-time leading goalscorer and may fancy his chances of extending his record as the hosts will be without first-choice defenders Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, and Dani Carvajal.
Koeman admitted he was hoping for another Messi masterclass but also admitted the team must play well as a whole if they are to head home with all three points in the bag.
“Hopefully Messi will be decisive for us tomorrow,” he said. “We need the best Messi, but above all we need the best Barca. And obviously we need Leo to have a good game, a good attack.”
Messi has been in sensational form since the turn of the year. The captain has 19 goals and seven assists in 20 games for Barcelona and could prove to be the difference between the two sides again on Saturday.