We have to be realistic – Koeman claims Barcelona are not ready to win major trophies

By Sports Desk January 30, 2021

Barcelona are not ready to win the biggest trophies and fans must be "realistic" about their title chances, head coach Ronald Koeman said.

The Catalans face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday for the first time since suffering defeat to Marcelino's side in the final of the Supercopa de Espana.

Barca go into the match 10 points behind LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand. Their tally of 37 points from their first 19 matches is their lowest return at this stage of a season since 2003-04.

According to a Stats Perform AI model run last week, Barca had just a 12.4 per cent likelihood of winning LaLiga, with Atletico overwhelming favourites at 75.1 per cent.

Having won just twice in their past seven meetings with Athletic in all competitions, the pressure is on Barca and Koeman to deliver to keep their slim hopes of a title challenge intact.

However, the former Netherlands boss feels this has been a year of transition for the club that means they should not aim too high.

"It's tough, because the points gap is very big," he said on Saturday. "In the Champions League, there's no clear favourite. We have a knockout against Paris Saint-Germain that we'll try to get through.

"I have said several times that this is a season where we are changing things, we are opting for young players.

"Barcelona are not about to win a lot of things right now. We have to be realistic about where we've come from, the changes we've made... not everything depends on one player. We always have to be ready to fight, but we have to be realistic."

With Barca having reported debts of close to €1.2billion and with presidential elections not taking place until March, January signings have been practically impossible.

The club remain hopeful, however, of bringing in Eric Garcia from Manchester City this month. The defender has already agreed to a deal with the club but they are exploring options to sign him in the coming days rather than wait for a free transfer at the end of the season, when his City contract expires.

"It's always important to have someone at the club working to improve our squad, if not in January for next year," Koeman said.

"It doesn't bother me because it's a job the club has to do. The players don't have to be bothered by these issues, because we talk to them every day, they take part in the games.... These things happen at any club in the world and I don't see any problem.

"We'll certainly have him [Garcia] for next season. If it's not possible for him to come now, we have to accept it and we'll keep going with what there is.

"But I don't know. I don't want to spend energy on this and I'm just focused on preparing the team for the games.

"I spoke to [City manager] Pep [Guardiola] a little while ago to wish him a happy 50th birthday. We talked, but we don't do so on Eric Garcia. That's not my job. I'm dedicated to coaching.

"I think it's normal that it's talked about so much because it's a transfer and because of the circumstances around the club. I've said what I thought, but what ends up happening is something I can't control, so I'm focused on what's important, which is trying to win games."

Related items

  • Bayern Munich 5-0 Viktoria Plzen: Sane stars as new Champions League record set Bayern Munich 5-0 Viktoria Plzen: Sane stars as new Champions League record set

    Leroy Sane scored twice in an emphatic 5-0 win against Viktoria Plzen as Bayern Munich made it a record 31 Champions League group games without defeat.

    Reigning Czech champions Viktoria are without a point at the midway stage in Group C and found themselves three goals down after 21 minutes at the Allianz Arena.

    Serge Gnabry and Sadio Mane netted after Sane had opened the scoring in Tuesday's contest as Bayern cruised towards a third win out of three in this season's competition.

    Sane's second was swiftly followed by a strike from substitute Eric Choupo-Moting, with Bayern settling for five goals ahead of their big Bundesliga clash with Borussia Dortmund.

    Bayern were without Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich, who tested positive for COVID-19, but were ahead inside seven minutes thanks to Sane's powerful shot from 18 yards.

    Gnabry, fielded through the centre of Bayern's attack, slotted home a second six minutes later with a clinical finish after being played in by Leon Goretzka at the end of a counter.

    Some poor Plzen defending allowed Mane to waltz through and score a third for Bayern, who had a Jamal Musiala goal ruled out before half-time due to an offside infringement.

    Sane doubled his tally after controlling Mane's pass with a sublime first touch and firing past Marian Tvrdon, with that proving to be his final meaningful act before being replaced.

    It was left to Choupo-Moting to round off the scoring prior to the hour mark with a shot that went in off the post following another precise pass from Goretzka. 

  • Rossouw's 48-ball century sets up South Africa for consolation win over India Rossouw's 48-ball century sets up South Africa for consolation win over India

    Rilee Rossouw took the India attack apart with a stunning 48-ball century as South Africa secured a consolation 49-win Twenty20 International run victory.

    After a pair of ducks in the opening two matches, Rossouw cracked 100 not out on Tuesday as the Proteas rattled to 227-3, before limiting the hosts to 178 all out at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore.

    India, armed with a 2-0 lead, were seeking to seal a series sweep ahead of three ODIs, but they did not threaten to get near South Africa's total.

    South Africa opener Quinton de Kock made 68 from 43 deliveries and shared in a second-wicket stand of 90 with Rossouw, before the latter cut loose, with eight sixes in his maiden T20I ton.

    India suffered a wretched start to their reply as they lost Rohit Sharma (0) and Shreyas Iyer (1) inside 10 balls.

    From 4-2, they recovered somewhat, stepping up the run rate significantly, but Rishabh Pant (27) and Dinesh Karthik (46) had to keep going to make it competitive. Both were gone by the end of the seventh over, and so in essence was India's hope of victory.

    India were seven wickets down by the time they got halfway to their target and a late flurry from the hosts serving essentially as crowd-pleasing batting practice. Lungi Ngidi took 2-51, in the process becoming the sixth South African bowler to reach 50 T20I wickets.

    Dwaine Pretorius claimed 3-26 as the tourists finished the series on a high note.

    Curious life of Rilee 

    Rossouw's ducks in the first two matches of this series were his third and fourth in T20Is, which is hardly ideal considering they were just his 18th and 19th innings in the short format. He has 12 sub-20 scores (including a 19no) in T20Is, but showed his class with a stunning century. It came as a mesmerising rate, with Rossouw topping his previous best of 96 not out, which came against England in Cardiff in July of this year.

    A word, too, for De Kock, who passed the 2,000-run mark in T20Is, becoming the second player, after David Miller, to achieve that feat for the Proteas.

    Twenty20 20 sets a record

    Umesh Yadav's unbeaten knock of 20 was the highest individual score by an Indian batter coming in at number 10 or below in the batting order in men's T20Is. It made ostensibly no difference, but coach Rahul Dravid was seeking runs all the way down the order so would have taken that as a small positive.

  • Lopetegui stays dignified amid claims Sampaoli will take his Sevilla job Lopetegui stays dignified amid claims Sampaoli will take his Sevilla job

    Julen Lopetegui pledged to stay professional until the last at Sevilla amid suggestions he will lose his job before the weekend.

    The former Porto, Spain and Real Madrid head coach is reportedly set to be replaced by Jorge Sampaoli after Wednesday's Champions League home game against Borussia Dortmund.

    Sampaoli led Sevilla in the 2016-17 season before leaving to take charge of the Argentina national team.

    He spent last season in France with Marseille, and Spanish sports newspaper Marca reported he will sign a two-year contract with Sevilla.

    Lopetegui is apparently poised to pay the price for his team's slow start to the season, which has seen them collect just five points from seven games, putting them already 10 points adrift of fourth place, which is currently held down by Real Betis.

    A 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid on Saturday looks to have been the final straw, with the transfer window departures of star defenders Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde having severely weakened the Andalusians.

    Finishing fourth last season gave Sevilla a place in the Champions League, and Lopetegui is determined to make a dignified exit, if the Dortmund game does prove to be his last at the helm.

    He said on Tuesday: "Look, in order to respect my own responsibility, I will not express any opinion about what has happened in the last few months.

    "I prefer to keep it for myself as a part of the responsibility I have as a coach of a big club like Sevilla. So tomorrow I will approach the game with my highest energy. This is what I did for my previous 169 games [at Sevilla] and I will do it for the 170th.

    "You cannot reach 170 games just by chance at such a demanding team as Sevilla. Obviously you must win a lot in order to stay for 170 games, and we did it. So I will not change either my speech or my attitude as a part of my responsibility."

    Lopetegui added: "I will keep loyal to what I have done here previously, because I think I must rise to the challenge at such a demanding club and of course, to not disappoint our fans, as they only deserve the best from every single person working at this club.

    "From my end, I will give my best given the responsibility I have, as I have been doing throughout my 169 games here and tomorrow I will do it again without any doubt."

    Sevilla have failed to score in their last three Champions League games, with their last goal in the competition coming in November 2021 against Wolfsburg.

    This season they have lost 4-0 to Manchester City and drawn 0-0 with FC Copenhagen. Sevilla have never previously failed to score in four consecutive games in European competition.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.