Ronald Koeman has grown tired of questions over his future at Barcelona and is now eager for the arrival of a new club president to end the uncertainty.

After a delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, elections to determine Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor will be held on Sunday.

Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font are the remaining candidates, with the decision over who will be in charge of the first team likely to sway the minds of many voting members.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Al-Sadd coach Xavi have been tipped to return to Camp Nou to replace Koeman should the next president decide a change in leadership is required.

However, Koeman's own position has been strengthened by some recent results, specifically the Copa del Rey triumph over Sevilla this week, with Barca recovering from a 2-0 first-leg deficit to win the tie 3-2 after extra time.

Koeman accepts the decision is largely beyond his control, but he has been wearied by the constant questions put to him about his chances of staying in the role.

Speaking ahead of Barca's LaLiga trip to Osasuna on Saturday, he said: "It's not in my hands. I have another year of my contract. Luckily, there'll be a new president in two or three days and we'll talk.

"I'm focused on winning games and on the possibility of winning the Copa del Rey. The rest is not in my hands.

"Of course, having a president is really important. It's the biggest club in the world and it's essential to know the possibilities that will open up to improve a lot of things. That's it."

When asked about the public discussion around possible replacement coaches, Koeman said: "This happens when a new president is coming. It doesn't bother me. I'm focused on my job. There are so many games that I can't think about other things.

"I'm not interested or bothered by names like Xavi or others. A new president is coming in and he'll decide. I'm tired of answering this kind of question.

"We're doing well, but we have to look for consistency. We have to concentrate on what we're doing. We're still lacking a lot.

"We've improved in terms of individual errors, we press more and there are phases of the game where we have improved with having three at the back. There are various things beyond the system."

Three wins in a row for Barca without conceding a goal has come at a key time in their season. As well as reaching another Copa final, their 10th in the past 13 seasons, they have closed to within five points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, having played a game more.

With Atleti facing Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman is likely to be supporting Zinedine Zidane's side for a day to give Barca's title chances a further boost.

"The main thing is our game. We have to win, and then the best result is that the team in first loses," he said.

Ronald Koeman cooled talk of Barcelona replicating their astonishing Copa del Rey comeback when they face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Barca overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit as they stunned Sevilla 3-0 after extra time at Camp Nou on Wednesday to reach the Copa del Rey final.

Ousmane Dembele gave Barca hope with a first-half goal and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen provided more life when he saved Lucas Ocampos' penalty 17 minutes from the end.

Gerard Pique capitalised in stoppage time, doubling Barca's lead on the night and levelling the semi-final tie 2-2 on aggregate, moments after Sevilla's Fernando was sent off.

Martin Braithwaite then put Barca ahead early in extra time as the LaLiga giants moved through to face Athletic Bilbao or Levante in the decider.

Barca will also have to come from behind on March 10 if they are to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals, with Koeman's side trailing Ligue 1 holders PSG 4-1 following the opening leg on home soil.

Speaking to reporters post-match, Barca head coach Koeman said: "2-0 it is easier for a comeback, even though it isn't easy, but 4-1 is still something else.

"And they have a great team with great players and as in any match, we start the game to win and during the game we are going to see if there is a chance to go ahead.

"If not, we will have to accept it and keep going in the same way."

Barca have struggled for form and consistency during Koeman's first season at the helm – the Spanish powerhouse five points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a match in hand.

Koeman's Barca also lost to Athletic in the Supercopa de Espana final this season.

"It is true [that this was his happiest night as Barça coach in which he felt more proud of his footballers]," Koeman said.

"It is a strong step towards wining an important title. Also, with a 2-0 against as we had to make a very complete game. As a coach, you cannot ask for anything more. We have fought, we have created, we have played and make it till the last second from a psychical point of view.

"I trust that we deserved to go ahead and now to play the final because we were the better team in both matches."

Ronald Koeman was full of admiration for the mentality of his Barcelona players after they produced an "incredible" comeback to advance to the Copa del Rey final with a 3-0 win over Sevilla.

Barca started a dramatic second leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday with a two-goal deficit, but won the tie 3-2 on aggregate to set up a final against Athletic Bilbao or Levante.

The Catalan giants hit the headlines at the start of the week when ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu was among those arrested on Monday – he was then provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business – as part of a police investigation into last year's 'Barcagate' scandal. 

There was no sign of any turmoil as Ousmane Dembele put Barca in front early on and Gerard Pique made it 2-2 with a last-gasp header to force extra time midweek.

Lucas Ocampos had missed a chance to level on the night when his penalty was saved by Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with 17 minutes remaining and Sevilla had Fernando sent off before Pique struck.

Martin Braithwaite put Barca in front early in extra time and Luuk de Jong – who had been substituted – was shown a red card on the touchline for dissent after Sevilla were denied another penalty.

Barca head coach Koeman hailed the character shown by his side, who also beat Sevilla 2-0 in LaLiga on Saturday.

The former Netherlands boss said in quotes reported by Marca: "We always believed. We never gave up on the Copa. It's a question of mentality.

"I, as a coach, can't ask my team to do more than what I've seen tonight. We fought until extra time and it's incredible. I'm very happy with the team's work tonight.

"We deserved to go through. I think we were better over the two legs. We were the best team."

Koeman added in a week that will end with the Barca presidential election: "We managed to score three goals and could've scored more. You can't ask for more."

Ronald Koeman implored his Barcelona side to focus on the football after admitting the events of the past couple of days are "not good for the club's image".

On Monday, Los Mossos d'Esquadra carried out several searches of the club's premises, prompting Barca to say have "offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation."

According to Spanish news agency EFE, former Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu was taken into custody as part of the probe carried out by the economic crimes department of the Catalan police. EFE said on Tuesday Bartomeu has been provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business.

The investigation is thought to centre around the "Barcagate" scandal, in which it was alleged social media company 13 Ventures were paid by Barcelona to smear club greats such as Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Xavi, Gerard Pique and ex-president Joan Laporta during Bartomeu's leadership.

In July 2020, Barca's offices were searched by Los Mossos in relation to those claims, although the club hired Price Waterhouse Coopers to investigate the matter and the global auditing firm found in their favour.

Addressing the chaotic events at a pre-match news conference for Barca's second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla, head coach Koeman said: "It's not good for the club's image. 

"We have to wait and see what happens. I wasn't here, I don't know what happened. We can't do anything, we must focus on football."

Bartomeu stepped down as Barca president in October ahead of a vote of no confidence in his leadership, a move that followed a close season of turmoil in which Messi attempted to leave Camp Nou.

Elections to choose his successor are scheduled to take place on Sunday amid another turbulent episode at Barca, with Laporta the favourite to return for a second stint in charge.

It has long-been suggested that a new regime will look to install club legend Xavi as head coach, rumours Koeman says he has no time to focus on.

"I'm not worried about Xavi. I have a contract," he added.

"When we know who the president is, we will have to speak and [he will] show me his way. This week only plays tomorrow's game."

For Koeman the immediate focus is on attempting to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Sevilla, a team they defeated by the same scoreline in LaLiga on Sunday.

"We know we have a bad result to come back from, but I think we have a chance. The team is very hungry," he said.

"The team has focused on doing good things. We have to ask for more effectiveness and a clean sheet, which will be vital. 

"All clubs go through difficult times. A lot has happened to us this season. We are fighting to win things. In the end what counts is the field, the games, being with the group.

"This is the best place for me, until the last day I will try to do my best for Barca. How long will I be here, it doesn't influence me."

Pedri offered Koeman a pre-match boost by resuming training following the leg injury he sustained during the weekend meeting with Sevilla, but defender Ronald Araujo remains a doubt after a setback when returning from an ankle problem during the same match.

Ronald Koeman insists he was not sending a message to Antoine Griezmann by leaving the misfiring forward on the bench for Barcelona's 2-0 victory over Sevilla.

Griezmann has gone six games without a goal in all competitions and was named among the Barca substitutes for the second match running on Saturday.

Unlike in the 3-0 win over Elche in midweek, the France international was not brought on as Koeman instead turned to Martin Braithwaite with the game poised at 1-0.

Explaining his decision to bring on Braithwaite instead of Griezmann for the final eight minutes, Koeman said: "It's not a message, no. 

"We decided to change the system and, to be able to get in behind, we put Dembele up top. 

"With the first goal, we said that we needed someone quicker than Griezmann on [Lionel] Messi's side. It's not a punishment."

Dembele opened the scoring just short of the half-hour mark at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan and Messi sealed the victory with his 30th goal against Sevilla in LaLiga - his best return against any opponent.

Barca's win was their ninth in 10 LaLiga outings and leaves them two points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a couple of games in hand.

The Catalan giants face Sevilla again on Wednesday at Camp Nou, where they will be looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie.

And after overcoming the Europa League winners in the league, Koeman is hopeful of a repeat scoreline when the teams reconvene in Catalonia.

"Of course we believe," he said. "That's our mentality, but Wednesday's game will be different because they will analyse the mistakes they made. 

"But yes, of course, we have a chance. I don't want to give more importance to the Copa game. We have to win and we have to fight. We will try to stay in all competitions until the end."

The victory may have come at a cost for Barcelona, however, as Gerard Pique and replacement Ronald Araujo - only just back from an ankle injury - both sustained knocks.

Pedri also left the field in the final 20 minutes after injuring his leg and will be assessed on Sunday, with all three players now doubtful for the cup tie against Sevilla.

"We have to wait and see about the injuries, we still don't know," Koeman said. 

"But despite the changes we had to make we kept the same rhythm because we have a deep squad that doesn't get annoyed [when not playing]."

For years now, Barcelona have relied on one superstar above all others, with Lionel Messi the player that has glued the team together at Camp Nou - the Argentinian's very presence bringing a sense of calm.

But now there is another South American whose impact upon the team has been quietly telling, and the anticipated return to action of Ronald Araujo this weekend could have a major impact at a crucial stage of the season.

Araujo does not have a cachet anywhere near that of Messi, but his absence was sorely felt as Barcelona stumbled to painful defeats against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.

Thankfully for coach Ronald Koeman, central defender Araujo is fit again after the ankle injury he sustained early in the 3-2 win at Real Betis three weeks ago.

The 21-year-old Uruguayan has missed the past five games, and his value to the team has perhaps never been quite so glaring as during his absence.

He was also sidelined for a five-week stretch in the autumn, and the evidence is mounting to show that Araujo, when fit, is now key to Barcelona's success.

"Ronald has had a very good season," Koeman said on Friday, when he named Araujo in his squad for the LaLiga home game against Sevilla.

"He is young and has learned a lot, he has shown his quality and physique. It is important to have strong and fast people. He must improve his game with the ball but defensively he contributes many things."

Koeman must know the data that shows exactly what a difference Araujo can make for Barcelona.

In the 20 matches that Araujo has played this season, Barcelona have won 14 times, drawn four and lost just twice, but when he has been absent that win ratio has nosedived.

Without Araujo's involvement, Barcelona have won nine, drawn two and lost six of their 17 games - amounting to a win percentage of 52.9, down from 70.

There is a curious contrast to be drawn here with Gerard Pique, the longest-serving centre-back at Barcelona.

A knee injury kept the 34-year-old out for almost three months until he returned to action in the shocking 4-1 home defeat against PSG on February 16.

In the 13 games Pique has played this season, Barcelona have a modest record of W6, D3, L4. Without him, they have won 17, drawn three and lost four.

As Koeman says, Araujo "contributes many things" to his defence, but perhaps in the twilight of his career that applies increasingly less so in the case of club great Pique.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman will not vote in elections to decide the next club president as he battles to show he should keep his job under the new regime.

Dutchman Koeman declared on Friday that he will not side with a particular candidate, with Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Antoni Freixa the three men vying for the post.

The election takes place on March 7 and its outcome could have a profound effect on Koeman's chances of getting a second season in charge.

His first campaign has been a struggle, with the club hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning Koeman has had to operate on a limited budget and with wranglings over pay cuts carrying on in the background.

The future of Lionel Messi is also up in the air, with the club's record goalscorer due to reach the end of his contract once this season finishes.

Koeman will watch and wait for the election results, but he told a news conference: "I do not vote because I am not someone who has to vote.

"Each one has his own story. Each candidate thinks that he is the best for the club. I have to wait to know the results. I have to wait and the members have to decide."

Once the successful candidate makes clear his plans for the club, Koeman will have more to say, but until then his focus is on getting results and ending an arduous February on a high note.

There have been LaLiga wins over Real Betis, Alaves and Elche, but it has been a month in which defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla in the first legs of the Champions League and Copa del Rey have hit Barcelona's trophy prospects.

Those ties remain retrievable, but Barcelona must go up several gears, starting with Saturday's league trip to Sevilla.

A 2-0 defeat at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium two and a half weeks ago must be quickly forgotten as Barcelona face a side battling alongside them in the top four to apply pressure on Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Sevilla will travel to Camp Nou next Wednesday for the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, but Koeman said of the double-header: "They are two different games. We must try to win both.

"We will know that in the Copa there is a 2-0 deficit and in LaLiga we must continue our streak, add and put pressure on those above us."

Barcelona have won 11 of their last 14 LaLiga matches, drawing the other three and last losing in early December to Cadiz.

It is the cup results that have hurt them, along with allowing Atletico Madrid to streak so far clear early in the league season that catching them remains a tall order for Barcelona.

Koeman said Barcelona's senior players, such as Lionel Messi, need to find support from the younger members of the squad.

"The older players have tried to take command but they cannot do it alone. They need help from others. The clearest example is that Leo [Messi] has 17 or 18 goals and the rest of the forwards together have more or less the same number," Koeman said.

"He needs help from the others. The responsibility must lie with the whole team."

Koeman, who left his role as Netherlands head coach to return to the club he graced as a player, may need a trophy to sustain his stay, even though his contract runs through to the end of next season.

Asked about the prospect of finishing without a title this season, Koeman said he always took a positive view and focused on winning rather than losing.

"I know that being a Barca coach implies that there is always a lot of pressure," he said. "If you don't win or lose matches, the culprit is the coach."

Lionel Messi was not among the veteran Barcelona stars Ronald Koeman called on to step up prior to Wednesday's win against Elche, the coach insists.

Barca headed into the match at Camp Nou having endured consecutive disappointing results in their previous two games, losing 4-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and then conceding a late equaliser to Cadiz in a 1-1 draw.

While Koeman has come to rely heavily on teenagers Pedri and Francisco Trincao this season, it was the more experienced players he demanded more from in his pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

That would presumably include Messi, the team's 33-year-old captain, but Koeman explained after overseeing a 3-0 victory that he had not been referring to his talisman.

Messi moved up a gear anyway, scoring with two of his three shots, creating a further chance and playing a role in the build-up to Jordi Alba's clinching goal.

The Barca number 10 certainly could not be questioned after increasing his 2021 tally to 13 goals in all competitions, the most of any player in Europe's 'top five' leagues.

"When I talk about veterans, I don't mean him," Koeman said. "Leo continues to score many goals.

"Others have to make a difference, not Messi. He continues to score, as he has shown today."

Messi was not immediately joined in lifting Barca's level as Trincao attempted the hosts' only two shots in the first half, their lowest tally in the opening 45 minutes of a home game this season.

Koeman had no issue then with Messi making his frustration clear during a tetchy first period.

"Everyone has seen that we lacked intensity and rhythm of the ball, especially," the coach explained. "It is good that Messi, as captain, asks for intensity."

Seven attempts followed after the interval, with all three of those on target hitting the net, while Koeman ended an eight-match run without a clean sheet.

"It was good," Koeman said. "The lack of rhythm was not due to a lack of attitude.

"Sometimes the opposition make things not go the way you want. We are human. The team has shown personality and desire."

Still third but now within five points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, Koeman was hopeful the mood in the Blaugrana camp would improve with the much-needed victory.

"Surely, having won today, tomorrow will be different," he said. "It is normal [to be upset] if you drop two points against Cadiz when it was time to cut back those at the top.

"You have to close this bad feeling with good games and good results."

Ronald Koeman is unwilling to discuss possible moves for Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland amid potential financial investment into Barcelona, depending on the identity of the club's next president. 

Toni Freixa, who is one of the three remaining candidates in the running for the role ahead of the election on March 7, has revealed he has reached an agreement with an investor that will make significant funds available. 

Speaking to RAC1, Freixa said the €250million injection is lined up to seal the addition of three "superstars" to the squad, of which two will be in attack. 

However, while waiting to see who will take over the presidential role, Koeman's only concern is on the current players at his disposal, rather than big-money signings for next season and beyond. 

"I don't know if this is true because until I talk to the new president, I can't say anything. I don't know," Koeman said on Tuesday. 

"We have to wait until we know who the new president is. He will be the one who will have to decide the future of the coach, the team [and] see what possibilities there are.  

"I'll wait until March 8 [the day after the election]."

Ahead of Barcelona's LaLiga game with Elche on Wednesday, Koeman was unsurprisingly asked about two obvious names that would meet the criteria laid out by Freixa, who said those lined up to join are "unique players".

Barca saw up close the talents of Mbappe when he scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 Champions League triumph for Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou, while Haaland has 27 goals already this season in all competitions. 

"This is not the time to talk about the other players," Koeman replied when asked about the young forward duo. 

"We are playing important games, and this could be the future of the club, or of a new president. We have to focus on our business.  

"These upcoming games are very decisive, and we are concentrating on this, which is the most important thing."

Barcelona head into the game against Elche looking to bounce back quickly from Sunday's surprise 1-1 home draw with Cadiz.

They have not lost any of their previous 16 meetings with Elche in LaLiga (W12 D4), keeping a clean sheet in the past nine. Lionel Messi has scored four goals in three matches against them in league action, an average of 1.33 per game.

Ronald Koeman has not given up on Barcelona winning LaLiga as they face a pivotal run of fixtures that could define their season, starting with Elche at home on Wednesday. 

Barca sit fourth in the table after only managing a draw at home to Cadiz at the weekend, a surprise result that ended a streak of seven successive league wins. 

However, with leaders Atletico Madrid losing at home to Levante, meaning they have managed just one victory in their previous four outings, Koeman retains hope his team can make up ground and get involved in a title race. 

Atleti have a three-point cushion over second-placed Real Madrid, who have played a game more than their neighbours, while Barcelona are eight points adrift.  

In between the two Clasico rivals are Sevilla, to whom Koeman's side travel to play this weekend in league action. They then host the same opponents next Tuesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, Barca needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the previous meeting if they are to progress. 

"I still believe that we can fight for the championship," Koeman told the media ahead of the visit of Elche to Camp Nou. "Results are showing that each team can come down.  

"It will depend on the two games that come, which are very important to fight for the title.  

"Then, in the cup, we have to come back. In the two competitions, we can do things. This week, we have three games that are important.

"It is difficult because we have to overcome a home game against Sevilla without an audience, with an audience it would be easier." 

Barca had 20 attempts and 81 per cent of possession against Cadiz but were punished for their wastefulness when Clement Lenglet was ruled to have fouled Ruben Sobrino in the penalty area, allowing Alex Fernandez to convert for an 89th-minute equaliser for the visitors with their only shot on target.

While they have scored 50 goals in LaLiga this campaign – the most by any team in the competition – Koeman wants to see his players become more ruthless in attack. 

"The problem is not that we do not create. It would be worse if we did not create opportunities," the Dutchman said when reflecting on Sunday's performance.

"We must ask for more effectiveness from the players at the top. We create opportunities and we did not score to make it 2-0.  

"These are important moments and, this season, we lack effectiveness. The percentage of goals is low for a team like Barcelona."

Koeman confirmed that Ronald Araujo is not yet ready to return from injury, though the defender is "improving" and could feature in either of the upcoming games against Sevilla.

Ronald Koeman described Barcelona's failure to beat Cadiz as more disappointing than their Champions League humiliation at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca followed up their 4-1 home defeat to PSG in the last 16 first-leg clash on Tuesday with a 1-1 draw in LaLiga against relegation-threatened Cadiz.

Lionel Messi marked his record 506th LaLiga game for the club with a 32nd-minute penalty, but Alex Fernandez levelled from the spot late on after Clement Lenglet was adjudged to have fouled Ruben Sobrino.

The draw meant Barca missed the chance to pull within six points of league leaders Atletico Madrid, who were beaten at home by Levante on Saturday.

"It is disappointing," Koeman said. "These types of games have to be won and we did not.

"It was a great opportunity lost after the loss of Atletico. I am very disappointed, more so than on Tuesday.

"We could not afford to let two points get away. I don't like to blame individual players but we were not up to the task offensively and we have to defend differently. For our quality, we had to win.

"The lead was very narrow and they could equalise at any time, which is what happened. You leave the door open for them to draw at the end if you don't kill the game and score the second.

"It was difficult for us to create opportunities because they were behind the ball and there was no space. We lacked freshness in attack."

Barcelona have failed to keep a clean sheet in eight successive games across all competitions for the first time since 2015.

Despite their issues at the back and the eight-point gap to the summit, Koeman is not giving up hope of Barca posing a serious challenge to Atletico.

"We can still do something," he added. "There is no team that wins games easily.

"But we must recognise that opportunities like this cannot be missed anymore. I don't think it is unforgivable, but it was an opportunity to close the gap.

"[The league] is not more complicated than before. No team is unbeatable, nor are they going to win every game. There are still options. But we have dropped two important points."

Ronald Koeman challenged Barcelona to react to their midweek mauling against Paris Saint-Germain and remains convinced Los Cules can cut it against the game's biggest sides.

Barca were pummelled by a Kylian Mbappe-inspired PSG in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday, the France World Cup winner scoring a hat-trick in a 4-1 rout.

With Barca well off the pace in LaLiga and 2-0 down to Sevilla after the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie, Koeman and his side have faced mounting criticism in recent weeks.

The Dutchman concedes the mood was low after the PSG defeat but wants to see a response from his team against Cadiz on Sunday.

"After a defeat, it is always good to have a game later to show that we can be better and get better results," Koeman told a pre-match news conference. 

"We have a good track record in the league in recent months and we have to continue. We accept what happened to us, but you have to react.

"The world does not end after a defeat. We must analyse the failures and improve things. 

"It is normal that the players are somewhat low emotionally after what happened. On Friday there was a lower atmosphere. 

"It is good that it is so. If it does not affect, we are not people who can be here. Today in training I have seen the group as before."

Barca's PSG defeat has become a familiar scenario in Europe's grandest club competition.

Coincidentally it was a 4-0 hammering away at PSG back in 2017 that preceded the greatest comeback in Champions League history, which set the tone for their own second-leg failings against Roma and Liverpool in the following seasons.

Last season was of course halted by the coronavirus pandemic but Barca were humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the one-off quarter-final clash played in Lisbon.

Koeman has no doubts Barca can still compete in the biggest matches, though.

"It is difficult to say what we lack against the greats. They had a lot of effectiveness and that made the difference," he added. 

"We have been close, we have had our opportunities. I do not see one team much better than another. We can beat anyone, but you have to show it in each game, and more if we do not have all the players."

Ronald Koeman paid tribute to Kylian Mbappe while admitting Barcelona must accept Paris Saint-Germain have a "more complete team" following their Champions League rout at Camp Nou.

PSG - last season's runners-up - took a commanding lead in the last-16 tie thanks to hat-trick hero Mbappe, who fuelled a stunning 4-1 demolition on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi, whose has been heavily linked with PSG, opened the scoring via a penalty before the French visitors seized control courtesy of Mbappe and Moise Kean.

Ligue 1 champions PSG outclassed and overpowered Barca to put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals ahead of the return leg on March 10.

Barca head coach Koeman acknowledged PSG's superiority was clear to see and conceded the embattled LaLiga giants have some way to go in order to compete with Mauricio Pochettino's men.

"They were superior, they were very efficient, in particular thanks to to Mbappe," Koeman said.

"The first half was balanced. At 1-0, Ousmane [Dembele] had a good opportunity. In the second part of the match, we had some defence problems.

"They showed that they were superior, with the ball and especially physically.

"They had a more complete team than ours. We have to accept it and keep improving. We know that can happen. This team is ahead of us."

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and players of their ilk should be protected by referees, according to Ronald Koeman, who hopes the Paris Saint-Germain star can face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League tie.

Barca host PSG in the first game of their last-16 contest on Tuesday, but Neymar – who spent four years at Camp Nou – will be absent due to an adductor injury suffered against Caen last week.

The Brazil international is expected to be out for four weeks, in theory ruling him out of the return leg against Barca at the Parc des Princes, where he has scored as many Champions League goals (16) as he did at Camp Nou but from six fewer games (14).

The second leg comes around on March 10, just before the predicted four-week absence period is due to end, so there remains a glimmer of hope for Neymar, and Barca coach Koeman would like for the PSG talent to be involved.

"To see the best game, you always have to have the best players on the field of play," Koeman told reporters on Monday.

"You never know how a team reacts if they lack a player like Neymar. Both teams have casualties. I hope in a couple of weeks everyone can be there to find out who is the best.

"I think we must always protect this type of player, players like Neymar, Messi, Cristiano, because they let us enjoy their quality a lot.

"And in this respect, the referees have to defend them, but in football there is contact and the players have to know that when they play one-on-one, and the referees have to decide when it is an ugly foul, but football is still a contact sport."

Given the tie had been billed as something of a duel between Messi and Neymar, understandably much of the focus from a PSG perspective has switched to Kylian Mbappe, despite the France forward netting only once in his nine Champions League knockout games for PSG

Koeman acknowledged Mbappe's talents but was keen to stress there is more to both teams than a single player.

"It is not a duel between Messi and Mbappe," he continued. "It is a duel between two teams played on one side by Leo Messi, the best player in the world and whom we need in his best form to win the tie, and similarly PSG with Mbappe.

"He is a very fast player who can complicate things a lot. It will be a beautiful game and these players are to be enjoyed as a football fan."

While Koeman suggested he hoped Neymar could feature in Paris next month, Jordi Alba – a former team-mate of the PSG talisman – was brutally honest in his appraisal of the situation.

"I am not going to deceive you, personally, it is better that players like Ney do not play in the opposing team," he added. "He is an important loss for them, like [Angel] Di Maria, who defensively and offensively contributes a lot.

"PSG has important players and I am sure that the people who replace them will have the same or similar level. It will be a contested tie that'll be decided by small details. We also have significant casualties from great players but the people who come in are doing well."

Barca are aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for a record 14th successive season, and the omens are not great for PSG, who have only ever won once away to Spanish opposition in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

Lionel Messi has proven with his recent form that he is committed to Barcelona despite significant uncertainty surrounding his future and links to Tuesday's Champions League opponents Paris Saint-Germain, according to Jordi Alba.

Messi rocked world football in pre-season when declaring his desire to leave Barcelona after spending his entire professional career at Camp Nou.

The Argentina international had grown disillusioned with the state of the club under previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom Messi subsequently accused of reneging on an agreement to let him leave on a free transfer.

Messi ultimately decided to stay put, uncomfortable with the idea of dragging Barca through the courts, leaving the possibility for him to depart at the end of his contract in 2021.

While Barca have made no secret of their desire to renew his deal, a situation that is dominating the lead-up to next month's presidential election, PSG are apparently eager to bring Messi to France and even some of their players have openly addressed the prospect.

With PSG up next on Tuesday, attentions understandably turned to Messi's future in the pre-match news conference, and Alba insisted his illustrious team-mate had shown his professionalism with his haul of nine goals in as many games.

"The decision he makes will be well thought out and well-considered," Alba said. "I have said many times that I am a better player on the field when he is on the field.

"It is his decision and it will have to be respected whatever he makes, but now his thoughts are at Barca and you see that in every game.

"Even if he had decided, he wouldn't say whether he is going to stay. He already said before what intention he had.

"Today he is 100 per cent committed. From here, hopefully we can win a title and let him decide at the end of the season.

"What other players or other clubs say, we do not pay attention to in the dressing room. Leo will have the last word."

Ronald Koeman, who addressed the media after Alba, was a little less willing to discuss Messi, yet he reiterated he is optimistic Barca's captain will remain with them after the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

"I don't know if it was the intention from [the media] to talk a lot about Messi, my idea is to prepare the team and the players for an important game," he said.

"Messi is a Barca player and I have high hopes that he will continue to be a Barca player."

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