Koeman Defends Griezmann & Dembele, Talks Barcelona’s UCL Hopes

Antoine Griezmann & Lionel Messi


Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has defended French duo Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele after both players struggled to impress in Saturday’s La Liga defeat to Getafe.

The pair were both named in Koeman’s starting XI at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez but made little impact and were taken off in the second half as the team suffered their first loss of the 2020-21 season.

Griezmann has yet to score or assist for Barcelona this season, and missed a clear chance against Getafe, but Koeman refused to criticize the Frenchman in a press conference on Monday.

“He is working well, of course we can have more performance at the top and he can give more. The only thing players can do is work hard to improve this situation.

“We’ve played four games and scored eight goals, I don’t know if there is a team with a better record. I’m not worried about the goals, we have enough quality. The last two games we’ve also played with teams that defend very well.”

Koeman also backed Dembele to improve after a sloppy display on Saturday. The Frenchman made his first start in 11 months after returning from a lengthy injury lay-off.

“He’s training and doing well. He did lose possession a lot against Getafe, but it’s the way he plays. He played better in the second half, and he’s working hard to get minutes.”

According to AS, Dembele lost possession 16 times against Getafe in the hour he spent on the pitch.  He also failed to find a Barcelona team-mate with seven of his passes.

Dembele’s last outing in the Champions League came back in November 2019 against former side Borussia Dortmund, but he is in contention to feature on Tuesday.

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Koeman Talks Barcelona’s UCL Hopes

Koeman also spoke about Barcelona’s Champions League hopes this season. The team have suffered humiliating exits from the competition over the past few campaigns at the hands of Roma, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich.

Barca will be expected to progress from a group that also contains Dynamo Kiev and Juventus, but their coach has warned he does not feel his team should be viewed as favorites to lift the European Cup.

“It’s always important to win your first group stage game, especially at home. It’s a tough match because nowadays there’s no such thing as an easy opponent. When you’re at Barcelona, you need to be in the mix to win trophies, be it in the Liga or in Europe. We aren’t the absolute favourites for this one, but we can go a long way.”

Koeman tasted glory in Europe’s elite competition twice as a player during his glittering career. The Dutchman lifted the European Cup in 1988 with PSV and again in 1992 with Barcelona, scoring the winner in the final against Sampdoria at Wembley Stadium.

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