Barcelona’s under-fire coach Koeman downplays Benfica clash

Barcelona, Spain, Sep 28 (EFE).- Barcelona’s embattled manager Ronald Koeman on Tuesday played down the importance of his side’s trip to Lisbon where they face Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Catalan side need to bounce back from the 0-3 home loss to Bayern Munich in their Champions League opener two weeks ago, but the atmosphere at the club is far from ideal.

Koeman’s relationship with Barcelona president Joan Laporta has deteriorated as the team has struggled to find a winning formula and attractive style of play this season.

“(In Lisbon) We are not playing to qualify for the next round. It is the second game out of six, so it is not decisive,” he told a press conference on Tuesday.

The Dutch manager did predict “a nice and interesting match” between “two teams that have their own style” while admitting that Barça need “a good result” that will give them peace of mind to face the rest of the group stage.

“We have analyzed Benfica, we know their strong points. They are fast on the counter attack, so it will be important to keep the ball and, if we lose it, to be well organized,” he said.

Koeman has previously coached the Lisbon team so knows their strengths well, especially at their imposing Stadium of Light: “They are strong in home matches. The Portuguese mentality is to attack with players high up the pitch.”

After Sunday’s 3-0 win against Levante, Koeman could send his team out in the same 4-2-3-1 formation that secured that important win over the Valencian side, but he insisted that “the system is not the most important thing” — “knowing where to pressure the opponent” is.

On the scoring return of Ansu Fati on Sunday — “he had an impact, emotionally”, the coach admitted — Koeman said the youngster had trained “without problems” and hopes the 18-year-old will feature on Wednesday.

In any case, Koeman was cautious about his team’s chances, pointing out the number of injuries they still have to deal with.

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