“Ansu was very tired on Monday,” Koeman said. “Emotionally it also had an impact on him last Sunday. To be there again, to fill in and to score. Plus, his family was there. So we have to take into account that it affects him mentally. He trained on Tuesday without any problems. We intend to give him a few more minutes against Benfica, although I cannot say how many minutes yet.”
After the return of Ansu Fati, with a goal against Levante (3-0), the Spanish prodigy is immediately linked to the national team again. “I can’t comment on that, because I’m not the national coach,” says Koeman, referring to a possible call from Luis Enrique, only to let it shine through that a call is not yet desirable. “He has been out for ten months, has only been training with the group for a few weeks and has only played fifteen minutes.”
Luke de Jong
Koeman also sees Luuk de Jong growing in his role, now that he is getting more and more playing minutes after months without duels and without preparation. “I think he will bring us a lot. He has been important, scored a goal on Sunday and he will be there when we need him. He also has a lot of experience with European football.”
Jordi Alba is on his way back, but still missing in Lisbon. The same goes for striker Sergio Aguero. His (r)entry is expected in mid-October. For Koeman, the sun seems to be slowly breaking through with the return of players. Last Sunday, Philippe Coutinho, for example, also made a bit more of an impression.
The game against Levante has changed the energy around the club in one fell swoop, at least for a while. “I think our opponent’s game was perfect,” said Koeman. “We always try, but sometimes it works out better than other times. It all depends on our attitude and how we put pressure to get things done quickly. We always have that intention.”
However, Koeman cannot always line up the same eleven in the coming series of duels. In particular, the talents who are now stealing the Barça hearts must be calmed down. “We have to look at the young players and consider how many minutes and how many games they can play,” said Koeman. “We have to keep an eye on the physical aspect. Five games in twelve days is a lot for any player. I need to see where the team needs the most freshness, and most importantly, how we can get the best result.”
Koeman expects a tough game against the club where he was coach in the 2005/06 season. “We know their strength in-house and I know how big the club is,” says the coach. “It is not a team that leaves a lot of space. The Portuguese mentality consists of controlling games, boasting a strong defense and wanting to make it difficult for teams with the qualities first.”