Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman was full of praise for his side and attackers Lionel Messi, Pedri, and Ousmane Dembele after Wednesday’s 3-2 win at Athletic Bilbao.
Two goals from Messi and a Pedri header saw Barca pick up an impressive three points at San Mames and move into third place in the table in Spain’s top flight behind only leaders Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.
Koeman spoke to reporters about his captain’s performance after the match, as reported by Mundo Deportivo.
As I have said several times Messi’s game and the demonstration of his will is always evident, but today he really showed it with his goals. He is a great player and for this team he is still very important.
Messi’s goals mean he now has nine for the season in La Liga and moves joint top of the goalscoring charts alongside Iago Aspas, Gerard Moreno, and former team-mate Luis Suarez.
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Pedri & Dembele Make Impact
Dembele and Pedri also made an impact on a good night for the duo who both started the match. Teenager Pedri scored the opening goal with a header and also picked up an assist when he teed up Messi to make it 2-1 before half-time.
The youngster only arrived at the Camp Nou in the summer but already appears to have cemented his place in the team. Koeman has not been surprised by his quality.
It is important to have good players in the midfield because that is where the game is decided. With Frenkie, Busi, Leo and Pedri we always had one more to make a difference. Pedri’s level is not a surprise for me, he is at a very high level.
Frenchman Dembele was also a constant threat down the right flank on his second start since recovering from injury and also came in for praise from his manager.
Everything starts with the players himself. If Dembélé feels good physically, he can perform very well. I have never doubted his quality and he gives us a lot. I try to manage his minutes because he’s not used to playing so many games in a row. He gives us a lot, due to his quality in one-on-one, depth and speed.
Dembele’s speed, ability to beat defenders, and willingness to take risks adds another dimension to the Barca attack, and the club will be hoping he can stay fit and go on an injury-free run.
Koeman Talks Title Hopes
Koeman also spoke about his team’s title hopes after seeing his team make it two wins from two in 2021. The Catalan giants cut the gap to leaders Atletico to seven points but have played two games more than the Rojiblancos.
Yet the Barca boss insists his team will continue to fight for the title and spoke of his happiness at picking up all three points at San Mames.
There is always a league, because the season is very long. You can have ups and downs in a season and it may be that a team that is doing very well will find it difficult, because there is a lot of competition and also because there is a very tight schedule and it is very difficult to endure the whole season.
The team has been working very seriously for a long time, with intensity. I think we deserved more points and today we were effective. It is also a matter of confidence, which we increase, and it is now a matter of preparing the next game. It is important to score three points.
Another tough test awaits Barcelona on Saturday away at Granada before the team’s La Liga campaign is interrupted for the Spanish Super Cup. Barca face Real Sociedad in Andalusia on January 13 with the winner set to face Real Madrid or Athletic in the final.