BARCELONA

Koeman: "The Cup is the shortest route to winning something"

The coach said that Barcelona are taking tomorrow's Copa del Rey tie against Rayo Vallecano seriously and added that Messi is keen to play.

Koeman: "The Cup is the shortest route to winning something"

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman looked ahead to tomorrow's Copa del Rey Last 16 tie against Rayo Vallecano which kicks off at 21:00 hours in Vallecas.

How are you approaching this tie, against a team from a lower division with a place in the quarter finals in play?

They are a division below us but Rayo is a first division team. It's going to be difficult, and we'll need to be fully engaged in the game if we are to make the next round.

Are you thinking about rotating the team to give some players a rest?

It all depends on how the players are. If some of them are looking tired, we'll make changes. We will be fielding a strong side with the idea of getting through this tie. We know that this is the shortest route to winning something.

Is the Copa del Rey a good opportunity now that Real Madrid and Atlético are out?

The teams who are still in it are all strong - as we saw in the Super Cup. For Madrid and Atleti, they now have some relief from the fixtures calendar and that's an advantage, but I would prefer to be playing every three days.

Do you think football players earn too much?

Barça is a big club which has been affected by the Covid-19 crisis and suffers just like everyone else. The players are focused and they are not worried about other issues. We are focused on our job.

How is Messi?

He's really keen to play and wants to win things, he's a winner who loves wining trophies. I'll name the squad tomorrow morning, we will have to wait until the evening to see if he starts or not.

In one sense, it would be good for us if he rests. He's fresh and hasn't any aches. To win anything, we will need Messi at his best.

How do you feel about playing another 9 pm kick-off?

There's nothing we can do about it. There's not enough time to get through it all, and all we can do is try to recover. We'll arrive home late and at least this time we will get a chance to rest as the next game is on Sunday.

What are your plans with Ilaix?

He knows what he needs to do in training / in spite of his age. We're counting on him and he always has the option of being with the first team squad, he'll be making the trip because it's a way of letting him know that we are counting on him.

Do you miss players like Carles Puyol?

We always miss players like him. I remember him from my time as assistant to Van Gaal. I've known him for many years. He's a home-grown player and a great character. He has a lot of personality and we need people like that.

You will be hoping to avoid extra-time?

Let's hope we can win the game without any problems, but the main thing is making sure we go through and if that means the game has to be decided in extra-time then we we will deal with that. In our situation, let's hope it doesn't come to that, but we will need to work very hard.