Jorge Sampaoli at the press conference
First team


The coach spoke of the need to continue improving, the departure of Januzaj and the UEFA squad list.
Cuerpo Superior

Jorge Sampaoli spoke on Friday ahead of Sunday's clash at the Camp Nou against leaders FC Barcelona: "It's a different opponent, but we're focused on improving upon an idea that allows us to grow all the time. In the last few games, the team has been evolving and the results have been improving along with that evolution."

"We have to keep at it, and not let our place in the table affect us so much, as you can lose belief in what you do or pretend the problem is sorted. We are still trying to ensure that the team has this evolved and that it is for the whole second half of the season and not just for one game."

Part of the work to be done these days is the integration of the new players: "We have to work with the players who arrived at the end of the window. We are also looking to reshape and strengthen the relationship between the players in a footballing way. Not only tactically. For me, it's a whole, not defence and attack. We play with a ball in constant movement that determines the players' movements on and off the ball. Within that style, we try to focus on the players taking it as their own."

"There are players with a greater sense of belonging and others with less, but we have to push them because my idea is that the team belongs to them and not me. If it ends up being mine, it will be difficult for them to win. If they take it as their own, they will be closer to developing a level of potential that will be difficult to stop."

"We will continue to try to sustain the team's development throughout the second half of the season."

After confirming that his only absentee for Sunday is Jesús Navas, he reflected on the transfer market: "It's a very difficult subject for me to talk about. When I arrive in a dressing room I see human beings and the market treats them as a product. It is a difficult topic for me to discuss. They are products that are devalued and revalued. It's as if players were like canned tomatoes."

"They are used in such a way that they lose the humanity and productivity of a human being carrying out an activity. They are given a shocking value and after six months they are loaned out for nothing. I give the example of Ocampos and Bryan, who returned to a place in order to be happy. The squad remained the same. With the hope that those who have arrived will adapt quickly and that this will happen in a smooth way and allow us to win games".

As for the UEFA list, he acknowledges that, "it was unfortunate that Pape was left out. Óliver came in because we needed four Spaniards and he deserved to, but unfortunately with so many arrivals and departures we couldn't put them all down and it was on a first-come, first-served basis. Pape would be important in Europe because he knows the tournament and we need him a lot, but unfortunately, we couldn't register him."

He also spoke about the departure of Januzaj: "There are times when, as coaches, we don't have the tools we need to generate that immediate inclusion. It takes a while and there were many in the winger position. I think it was the right decision to send out a player with the talent that he has, to compete with more participation and to be able to arrive in June with more minutes and with a more concrete development. I arrived without knowing him, I implanted a sometimes strict form of what he needed, and it cost us a little."

"I think Januzaj's departure is the right decision so that he can have more minutes by June."

Returning to talk about Barcelona, he reaffirmed that: "we are going to play against a very good team. It is difficult to know how often they will be able to get the ball off of us and we hope that we are not pressed into submission. These are the challenges and it is crucial that we know how we can win, because the most important aspect of sport is winning. I think that if we play better than them we will win, but sometimes this is not the case."

Touching on the poor form the side has shown in the league when playing in Catalonia, he said that "in football people always talk about these supposedly big differences, but in reality, this is a place where Messi played for many years and this only made them stronger as a team. I hope we are able to compete with them. We have to manage two things, excitement and fear. The excitement is about going to the Camp Nou and improving our record there, but the fear itself can sometimes arise just from going there. 

We have to find a happy medium that allows us to play for 90 minutes against a good rival who has a clear idea of how they want to play. It's a place where very few teams score and we know we will have to fight, because in the table we are separated from other teams by only a few points. At the minute we are out of the relegation zone, but we could be back there if we don't do well in the next two games. We have to face this reality and try to keep on climbing up the table as quickly as possible. Whatever points we can pick up along the way will be welcomed."

Referring to Suso and En-Nesyri: "They are players who have been consistent with their goal contributions and we need these types of players. In this match we cannot have players who don't track back because our opponent will make the most of this. We need to have solidity in defence throughout the game. We will have to know which players will best suit this situation, and maybe for some players this style of play will not suit them. However, I think there has been a good development with what I have asked from them and this has improved the performance of the team."

"Acuña is carrying a niggle in his adductor, but it was worse when I arrived. When there are chronic injuries sometimes you have to try other methods of treatment. He is okay, better than when I arrived here and when he went to the World Cup. For us he is crucial and he will continue to be."

Finally, on Bryan Gill: "He is ready. He has not been paying much but he is young, he has got a lot of energy and is excited to play for this club."