Koeman insists Benfica clash not decisive for FC Barcelona




Manager Ronald Koeman insisted on Tuesday that FC Barcelona’s Champions League visit to Benfica could not be classed as decisive in the early stages of Group E.

Barca endured a tough start to the Champions League against Bayern Munich, failing to attempt a shot on target for the first time in the competition since Opta records began in 2003/2004.

The Catalan club are looking to avoid losing their first two matches in a European campaign for only the second time in their history.

They have previously lost both legs of their UEFA Cup first-round tie with Porto way back in 1972/1973.

However, Koeman was in confident mood ahead of the trip to Portugal after crushing Levante 3-0 on Sunday, while shunning claims that Wednesday’s tie was a must-win.

“Impossible, it is the second of six, it cannot be decisive,” Koeman initially responded to reporters on Tuesday before outlining his intentions.

“FC Barcelona always plays to win the game. Our intention is to control, have the ball and look for spaces with the players we have.

“We expect a difficult game. I know the atmosphere that can be in the stadium and the strength that [Benfica] have at home.

“They play at home, and they will have the environment in their favour, they will try attack to win. It is not a team that plays not to lose. And we have the same intention at home or away, to take control of the game to win.”

Koeman remained secretive as to whether the recovering Ansu Fati, who has now been involved in 17 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions following his strike against Levante, would feature.

Memphis Depay has scored in his past two games against Benfica in the competition.

Now he is expected to lead the line once more, though he did not attempt a single shot on matchday one against Bayern Munich.

Whoever Koeman selects up top, Blaugrana centre-back Ronald Araujo is backing his side to compete and challenge for titles in both the Champions League and La Liga this term.

“We are FC Barcelona, and we have to aspire to all the titles,” Araujo told reporters.

“We cannot go to see what happens, we have to go to win and try to win as many titles as we can.

“It’s an important game against a great rival, but we are going to win. We come from a great game at the weekend and I think that’s the way to go. We have to go for the three points.”(dpa/NAN)

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