Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has explained why he left midfielder Riqui Puig in the stands for Saturday’s Copa del Rey win over Athletic and included three goalkeepers in his squad for the match.
Eyebrows were raised when Koeman named his team and included young stoppers Inaki Pena and Arnau Tenas on the bench, while Puig, Miralem Pjanic, Matheus Fernandes, and Junior Firpo were all left out and forced to watch on from the stands.
Koeman told a press conference on Wednesday that it’s just job to make tough decisions and that he felt he needed another goalkeeper on the bench in case first choice Marc-Andre ter Stegen suffered an injury
“There were decisions I don’t like either because we had to leave four players out. The press was surprised that we had three goalkeepers, but for me that’s very normal because we’ve done it in all the Copa del Rey matches,” he said. “I’ll give you an example. If in the warm-up Ter Stegen is injured, I have to put a second goalkeeper on. If the second one receives a red card then I’d have to put an outfield player in goal. For me that’s too much risk. I’ve still got seven more outfield players on the bench that can go on and for me that’s enough.”
Barcelona won the match 4-0 with goals from Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, and a double from captain Lionel Messi to pick up a first trophy under Koeman.
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What Now For Puig?
The Barca boss did advise Puig to go out on loan at the start of the season, but the midfielder opted to stay and fight for his place. He has gone on to make 21 appearances for the Catalan giants, largely off the bench, but has enjoyed some memorable moments.
Puig scored the winning penalty against Real Sociedad in the semi-final of the Spanish Super Cup in January and also notched his first La Liga goal with a header in a 2-0 win over Elche.
Yet Puig has made little impact since then and has even seen 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba jump above him in the pecking order. Koeman has been happy to place his trust in the teenager who came on as a substitute in the Copa del Rey final.
The prospect of Puig heading out on loan next season has emerged again in the wake of the Copa del Rey final. Lluis Miguelsanz at Diario Sport reports the midfielder may need to rethink his future and consider a loan move next year to try and win over Koeman.
Getafe Next For Barca
Barca returns to action on Thursday after success in the Copa del Rey final with a La Liga match against Getafe. The Catalan giants know they will be crowned Spanish champions if they win their final eight games.
Koeman says his team is in good shape but is expecting a tough match against Jose Bordalas’s side who beat Barca 1-0 at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez back in October in La Liga.
“We know there are eight matchdays left and we are going match by match. We enjoyed the cup final very much especially the way we achieved it,” he said. “We’ve said we need to focus now on La Liga. We have a tough match at home so we need to be in good shape, impose our game, use our effectiveness and win the match.”
Getafe heads into the match on a run of six games without a win, but the team has managed to secure goalless draws against title-chasers Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid during that run.
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