Barcelona are ready and waiting for Paris Saint Germain. That was the message from Ronald Koeman after he watched his under strength side thrash Alaves 5-1 just three days before facing the French champions.
Koeman left Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Jordi Alba on the bench and gave a debut to 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba in a new-look midfield but his side did not buckle under the weight of so many changes with an emphatic win.
‘The team is in good shape and I am confident we can win the tie,’ said Koeman of the prospect of facing Kylian Mbappe and company. ‘We know we face a tough test. They have players out and so do we.
‘There is nothing between us and we know we will have to be on form to go through. But we are in a good moment of form. We are on a good run. We are confident.’
The 5-1 win was Barcelona’s seventh straight league victory and Messi led the team with a man of the match performance. He took his tally in the league to 15 goals for this season – just one goal behind the competition’s top scorer Luis Suarez.
He should have had a hat-trick but was denied by what looked an absurd VAR decision ruling out a goal just before half time for offside against Antoine Griezmann when the freeze frame showed the Frenchman level.
‘It’s best that I don’t speak about VAR anymore,’ said Koeman who preferred to wax lyrical about Messi. ‘He is very important,’ he added. ‘He is in a fantastic moment of form. We know how decisive he can be and right now he is happy and very involved.
‘With him as effective as this everything is easier. To beat PSG we know we need Messi and everyone to be at their best.’
Barcelona remain eight points behind Atletico Madrid who have a game in hand but their form since the turn of the turn of the year in the league has been much improved on last year.
Winger Francisco Trincao is the perfect example of that. He struggled last year but now has three goals in two games.
Koeman added: ‘It was a question of confidence. You also have to give him the benefit of the doubt while he adapts. He is quick and he can go past people.’
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