Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman will not vote in elections to decide the next club president as he battles to show he should keep his job under the new regime.

Dutchman Koeman declared on Friday that he will not side with a particular candidate, with Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Antoni Freixa the three men vying for the post.

The election takes place on March 7 and its outcome could have a profound effect on Koeman's chances of getting a second season in charge.

His first campaign has been a struggle, with the club hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning Koeman has had to operate on a limited budget and with wranglings over pay cuts carrying on in the background.

The future of Lionel Messi is also up in the air, with the club's record goalscorer due to reach the end of his contract once this season finishes.

Koeman will watch and wait for the election results, but he told a news conference: "I do not vote because I am not someone who has to vote.

"Each one has his own story. Each candidate thinks that he is the best for the club. I have to wait to know the results. I have to wait and the members have to decide."

Once the successful candidate makes clear his plans for the club, Koeman will have more to say, but until then his focus is on getting results and ending an arduous February on a high note.

There have been LaLiga wins over Real Betis, Alaves and Elche, but it has been a month in which defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla in the first legs of the Champions League and Copa del Rey have hit Barcelona's trophy prospects.

Those ties remain retrievable, but Barcelona must go up several gears, starting with Saturday's league trip to Sevilla.

A 2-0 defeat at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium two and a half weeks ago must be quickly forgotten as Barcelona face a side battling alongside them in the top four to apply pressure on Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Sevilla will travel to Camp Nou next Wednesday for the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, but Koeman said of the double-header: "They are two different games. We must try to win both.

"We will know that in the Copa there is a 2-0 deficit and in LaLiga we must continue our streak, add and put pressure on those above us."

Barcelona have won 11 of their last 14 LaLiga matches, drawing the other three and last losing in early December to Cadiz.

It is the cup results that have hurt them, along with allowing Atletico Madrid to streak so far clear early in the league season that catching them remains a tall order for Barcelona.

Koeman said Barcelona's senior players, such as Lionel Messi, need to find support from the younger members of the squad.

"The older players have tried to take command but they cannot do it alone. They need help from others. The clearest example is that Leo [Messi] has 17 or 18 goals and the rest of the forwards together have more or less the same number," Koeman said.

"He needs help from the others. The responsibility must lie with the whole team."

Koeman, who left his role as Netherlands head coach to return to the club he graced as a player, may need a trophy to sustain his stay, even though his contract runs through to the end of next season.

Asked about the prospect of finishing without a title this season, Koeman said he always took a positive view and focused on winning rather than losing.

"I know that being a Barca coach implies that there is always a lot of pressure," he said. "If you don't win or lose matches, the culprit is the coach."

Lionel Messi was not among the veteran Barcelona stars Ronald Koeman called on to step up prior to Wednesday's win against Elche, the coach insists.

Barca headed into the match at Camp Nou having endured consecutive disappointing results in their previous two games, losing 4-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and then conceding a late equaliser to Cadiz in a 1-1 draw.

While Koeman has come to rely heavily on teenagers Pedri and Francisco Trincao this season, it was the more experienced players he demanded more from in his pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

That would presumably include Messi, the team's 33-year-old captain, but Koeman explained after overseeing a 3-0 victory that he had not been referring to his talisman.

Messi moved up a gear anyway, scoring with two of his three shots, creating a further chance and playing a role in the build-up to Jordi Alba's clinching goal.

The Barca number 10 certainly could not be questioned after increasing his 2021 tally to 13 goals in all competitions, the most of any player in Europe's 'top five' leagues.

"When I talk about veterans, I don't mean him," Koeman said. "Leo continues to score many goals.

"Others have to make a difference, not Messi. He continues to score, as he has shown today."

Messi was not immediately joined in lifting Barca's level as Trincao attempted the hosts' only two shots in the first half, their lowest tally in the opening 45 minutes of a home game this season.

Koeman had no issue then with Messi making his frustration clear during a tetchy first period.

"Everyone has seen that we lacked intensity and rhythm of the ball, especially," the coach explained. "It is good that Messi, as captain, asks for intensity."

Seven attempts followed after the interval, with all three of those on target hitting the net, while Koeman ended an eight-match run without a clean sheet.

"It was good," Koeman said. "The lack of rhythm was not due to a lack of attitude.

"Sometimes the opposition make things not go the way you want. We are human. The team has shown personality and desire."

Still third but now within five points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, Koeman was hopeful the mood in the Blaugrana camp would improve with the much-needed victory.

"Surely, having won today, tomorrow will be different," he said. "It is normal [to be upset] if you drop two points against Cadiz when it was time to cut back those at the top.

"You have to close this bad feeling with good games and good results."

Ronald Koeman is unwilling to discuss possible moves for Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland amid potential financial investment into Barcelona, depending on the identity of the club's next president. 

Toni Freixa, who is one of the three remaining candidates in the running for the role ahead of the election on March 7, has revealed he has reached an agreement with an investor that will make significant funds available. 

Speaking to RAC1, Freixa said the €250million injection is lined up to seal the addition of three "superstars" to the squad, of which two will be in attack. 

However, while waiting to see who will take over the presidential role, Koeman's only concern is on the current players at his disposal, rather than big-money signings for next season and beyond. 

"I don't know if this is true because until I talk to the new president, I can't say anything. I don't know," Koeman said on Tuesday. 

"We have to wait until we know who the new president is. He will be the one who will have to decide the future of the coach, the team [and] see what possibilities there are.  

"I'll wait until March 8 [the day after the election]."

Ahead of Barcelona's LaLiga game with Elche on Wednesday, Koeman was unsurprisingly asked about two obvious names that would meet the criteria laid out by Freixa, who said those lined up to join are "unique players".

Barca saw up close the talents of Mbappe when he scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 Champions League triumph for Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou, while Haaland has 27 goals already this season in all competitions. 

"This is not the time to talk about the other players," Koeman replied when asked about the young forward duo. 

"We are playing important games, and this could be the future of the club, or of a new president. We have to focus on our business.  

"These upcoming games are very decisive, and we are concentrating on this, which is the most important thing."

Barcelona head into the game against Elche looking to bounce back quickly from Sunday's surprise 1-1 home draw with Cadiz.

They have not lost any of their previous 16 meetings with Elche in LaLiga (W12 D4), keeping a clean sheet in the past nine. Lionel Messi has scored four goals in three matches against them in league action, an average of 1.33 per game.

Ronald Koeman has not given up on Barcelona winning LaLiga as they face a pivotal run of fixtures that could define their season, starting with Elche at home on Wednesday. 

Barca sit fourth in the table after only managing a draw at home to Cadiz at the weekend, a surprise result that ended a streak of seven successive league wins. 

However, with leaders Atletico Madrid losing at home to Levante, meaning they have managed just one victory in their previous four outings, Koeman retains hope his team can make up ground and get involved in a title race. 

Atleti have a three-point cushion over second-placed Real Madrid, who have played a game more than their neighbours, while Barcelona are eight points adrift.  

In between the two Clasico rivals are Sevilla, to whom Koeman's side travel to play this weekend in league action. They then host the same opponents next Tuesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, Barca needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the previous meeting if they are to progress. 

"I still believe that we can fight for the championship," Koeman told the media ahead of the visit of Elche to Camp Nou. "Results are showing that each team can come down.  

"It will depend on the two games that come, which are very important to fight for the title.  

"Then, in the cup, we have to come back. In the two competitions, we can do things. This week, we have three games that are important.

"It is difficult because we have to overcome a home game against Sevilla without an audience, with an audience it would be easier." 

Barca had 20 attempts and 81 per cent of possession against Cadiz but were punished for their wastefulness when Clement Lenglet was ruled to have fouled Ruben Sobrino in the penalty area, allowing Alex Fernandez to convert for an 89th-minute equaliser for the visitors with their only shot on target.

While they have scored 50 goals in LaLiga this campaign – the most by any team in the competition – Koeman wants to see his players become more ruthless in attack. 

"The problem is not that we do not create. It would be worse if we did not create opportunities," the Dutchman said when reflecting on Sunday's performance.

"We must ask for more effectiveness from the players at the top. We create opportunities and we did not score to make it 2-0.  

"These are important moments and, this season, we lack effectiveness. The percentage of goals is low for a team like Barcelona."

Koeman confirmed that Ronald Araujo is not yet ready to return from injury, though the defender is "improving" and could feature in either of the upcoming games against Sevilla.

Ronald Koeman described Barcelona's failure to beat Cadiz as more disappointing than their Champions League humiliation at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca followed up their 4-1 home defeat to PSG in the last 16 first-leg clash on Tuesday with a 1-1 draw in LaLiga against relegation-threatened Cadiz.

Lionel Messi marked his record 506th LaLiga game for the club with a 32nd-minute penalty, but Alex Fernandez levelled from the spot late on after Clement Lenglet was adjudged to have fouled Ruben Sobrino.

The draw meant Barca missed the chance to pull within six points of league leaders Atletico Madrid, who were beaten at home by Levante on Saturday.

"It is disappointing," Koeman said. "These types of games have to be won and we did not.

"It was a great opportunity lost after the loss of Atletico. I am very disappointed, more so than on Tuesday.

"We could not afford to let two points get away. I don't like to blame individual players but we were not up to the task offensively and we have to defend differently. For our quality, we had to win.

"The lead was very narrow and they could equalise at any time, which is what happened. You leave the door open for them to draw at the end if you don't kill the game and score the second.

"It was difficult for us to create opportunities because they were behind the ball and there was no space. We lacked freshness in attack."

Barcelona have failed to keep a clean sheet in eight successive games across all competitions for the first time since 2015.

Despite their issues at the back and the eight-point gap to the summit, Koeman is not giving up hope of Barca posing a serious challenge to Atletico.

"We can still do something," he added. "There is no team that wins games easily.

"But we must recognise that opportunities like this cannot be missed anymore. I don't think it is unforgivable, but it was an opportunity to close the gap.

"[The league] is not more complicated than before. No team is unbeatable, nor are they going to win every game. There are still options. But we have dropped two important points."

Ronald Koeman challenged Barcelona to react to their midweek mauling against Paris Saint-Germain and remains convinced Los Cules can cut it against the game's biggest sides.

Barca were pummelled by a Kylian Mbappe-inspired PSG in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday, the France World Cup winner scoring a hat-trick in a 4-1 rout.

With Barca well off the pace in LaLiga and 2-0 down to Sevilla after the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie, Koeman and his side have faced mounting criticism in recent weeks.

The Dutchman concedes the mood was low after the PSG defeat but wants to see a response from his team against Cadiz on Sunday.

"After a defeat, it is always good to have a game later to show that we can be better and get better results," Koeman told a pre-match news conference. 

"We have a good track record in the league in recent months and we have to continue. We accept what happened to us, but you have to react.

"The world does not end after a defeat. We must analyse the failures and improve things. 

"It is normal that the players are somewhat low emotionally after what happened. On Friday there was a lower atmosphere. 

"It is good that it is so. If it does not affect, we are not people who can be here. Today in training I have seen the group as before."

Barca's PSG defeat has become a familiar scenario in Europe's grandest club competition.

Coincidentally it was a 4-0 hammering away at PSG back in 2017 that preceded the greatest comeback in Champions League history, which set the tone for their own second-leg failings against Roma and Liverpool in the following seasons.

Last season was of course halted by the coronavirus pandemic but Barca were humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the one-off quarter-final clash played in Lisbon.

Koeman has no doubts Barca can still compete in the biggest matches, though.

"It is difficult to say what we lack against the greats. They had a lot of effectiveness and that made the difference," he added. 

"We have been close, we have had our opportunities. I do not see one team much better than another. We can beat anyone, but you have to show it in each game, and more if we do not have all the players."

Ronald Koeman paid tribute to Kylian Mbappe while admitting Barcelona must accept Paris Saint-Germain have a "more complete team" following their Champions League rout at Camp Nou.

PSG - last season's runners-up - took a commanding lead in the last-16 tie thanks to hat-trick hero Mbappe, who fuelled a stunning 4-1 demolition on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi, whose has been heavily linked with PSG, opened the scoring via a penalty before the French visitors seized control courtesy of Mbappe and Moise Kean.

Ligue 1 champions PSG outclassed and overpowered Barca to put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals ahead of the return leg on March 10.

Barca head coach Koeman acknowledged PSG's superiority was clear to see and conceded the embattled LaLiga giants have some way to go in order to compete with Mauricio Pochettino's men.

"They were superior, they were very efficient, in particular thanks to to Mbappe," Koeman said.

"The first half was balanced. At 1-0, Ousmane [Dembele] had a good opportunity. In the second part of the match, we had some defence problems.

"They showed that they were superior, with the ball and especially physically.

"They had a more complete team than ours. We have to accept it and keep improving. We know that can happen. This team is ahead of us."

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and players of their ilk should be protected by referees, according to Ronald Koeman, who hopes the Paris Saint-Germain star can face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League tie.

Barca host PSG in the first game of their last-16 contest on Tuesday, but Neymar – who spent four years at Camp Nou – will be absent due to an adductor injury suffered against Caen last week.

The Brazil international is expected to be out for four weeks, in theory ruling him out of the return leg against Barca at the Parc des Princes, where he has scored as many Champions League goals (16) as he did at Camp Nou but from six fewer games (14).

The second leg comes around on March 10, just before the predicted four-week absence period is due to end, so there remains a glimmer of hope for Neymar, and Barca coach Koeman would like for the PSG talent to be involved.

"To see the best game, you always have to have the best players on the field of play," Koeman told reporters on Monday.

"You never know how a team reacts if they lack a player like Neymar. Both teams have casualties. I hope in a couple of weeks everyone can be there to find out who is the best.

"I think we must always protect this type of player, players like Neymar, Messi, Cristiano, because they let us enjoy their quality a lot.

"And in this respect, the referees have to defend them, but in football there is contact and the players have to know that when they play one-on-one, and the referees have to decide when it is an ugly foul, but football is still a contact sport."

Given the tie had been billed as something of a duel between Messi and Neymar, understandably much of the focus from a PSG perspective has switched to Kylian Mbappe, despite the France forward netting only once in his nine Champions League knockout games for PSG

Koeman acknowledged Mbappe's talents but was keen to stress there is more to both teams than a single player.

"It is not a duel between Messi and Mbappe," he continued. "It is a duel between two teams played on one side by Leo Messi, the best player in the world and whom we need in his best form to win the tie, and similarly PSG with Mbappe.

"He is a very fast player who can complicate things a lot. It will be a beautiful game and these players are to be enjoyed as a football fan."

While Koeman suggested he hoped Neymar could feature in Paris next month, Jordi Alba – a former team-mate of the PSG talisman – was brutally honest in his appraisal of the situation.

"I am not going to deceive you, personally, it is better that players like Ney do not play in the opposing team," he added. "He is an important loss for them, like [Angel] Di Maria, who defensively and offensively contributes a lot.

"PSG has important players and I am sure that the people who replace them will have the same or similar level. It will be a contested tie that'll be decided by small details. We also have significant casualties from great players but the people who come in are doing well."

Barca are aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for a record 14th successive season, and the omens are not great for PSG, who have only ever won once away to Spanish opposition in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

Lionel Messi has proven with his recent form that he is committed to Barcelona despite significant uncertainty surrounding his future and links to Tuesday's Champions League opponents Paris Saint-Germain, according to Jordi Alba.

Messi rocked world football in pre-season when declaring his desire to leave Barcelona after spending his entire professional career at Camp Nou.

The Argentina international had grown disillusioned with the state of the club under previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom Messi subsequently accused of reneging on an agreement to let him leave on a free transfer.

Messi ultimately decided to stay put, uncomfortable with the idea of dragging Barca through the courts, leaving the possibility for him to depart at the end of his contract in 2021.

While Barca have made no secret of their desire to renew his deal, a situation that is dominating the lead-up to next month's presidential election, PSG are apparently eager to bring Messi to France and even some of their players have openly addressed the prospect.

With PSG up next on Tuesday, attentions understandably turned to Messi's future in the pre-match news conference, and Alba insisted his illustrious team-mate had shown his professionalism with his haul of nine goals in as many games.

"The decision he makes will be well thought out and well-considered," Alba said. "I have said many times that I am a better player on the field when he is on the field.

"It is his decision and it will have to be respected whatever he makes, but now his thoughts are at Barca and you see that in every game.

"Even if he had decided, he wouldn't say whether he is going to stay. He already said before what intention he had.

"Today he is 100 per cent committed. From here, hopefully we can win a title and let him decide at the end of the season.

"What other players or other clubs say, we do not pay attention to in the dressing room. Leo will have the last word."

Ronald Koeman, who addressed the media after Alba, was a little less willing to discuss Messi, yet he reiterated he is optimistic Barca's captain will remain with them after the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

"I don't know if it was the intention from [the media] to talk a lot about Messi, my idea is to prepare the team and the players for an important game," he said.

"Messi is a Barca player and I have high hopes that he will continue to be a Barca player."

Ronald Koeman felt Lionel Messi was incorrectly denied a goal by VAR in Barcelona's 5-1 victory over Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

After Francisco Trincao's opener at the end of a 35-pass move, Messi put the ball in the back of the net after Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco denied Antoine Griezmann in a one-on-one.

However, Griezmann was deemed to have been offside when played in by Sergio Busquets and the goal was disallowed, with referee Jorge Figueroa Vazquez warning Koeman about his remonstrations on the touchline.

Messi, who equalled Xavi's record of 505 LaLiga appearances for Barca, got on the scoresheet with a fine strike on the stroke of half-time, but Luis Rioja pulled Alaves back into the game in the 57th minute.

Trincao doubled his tally in the 74th minute and Messi fired a stunning 25-yard effort into the top-left corner 83 seconds later, with Junior Firpo wrapping up the win in the 80th minute.

Despite the result, Koeman was still irked by the decision to take away a goal from Messi, who now has 12 in 11 LaLiga appearances against Alaves – no player has scored more against them in the competition's history.

"I'd better not talk about VAR anymore. You have to have a magnifying glass to see whether or not it is offside," said Koeman.

"I have seen the image several times and for me it is not offside."

Having lost the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla 2-0 in midweek, Barca getting back on track ahead of the opening match in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain was a boost for Koeman.

"The team is doing well. We are confident we can win the tie, knowing that we play against a strong block," said Koeman, whose side have won six straight LaLiga games.

"They have injuries, but so do we. The tie is even. We have to do well to progress. We are in a good moment, we have a good winning streak. We are confident."

Messi's two goals were scored from outside the box, making it just the seventh time he has done that in a LaLiga game and the first since a clash with Real Mallorca in December 2019.

Koeman said: "Messi is very important. He is in a fantastic moment. We know that he is decisive – he has been like this for a long time.

"He is very involved, he is happy, he is effective. With him, everything is easier. To win against PSG we need Leo and the rest of the players in their prime."

Alaves' goal came after an errant pass from 18-year-old midfielder Ilaix Moriba, who set up Trincao's first goal as he made his LaLiga debut alongside Riqui Puig and Sergio Busquets.

"I'll talk to him. He must know the pass cannot be made horizontally but he is young and will learn," said Koeman.

"Riqui Puig is improving a lot of things. He's always shown a lot of confidence and put a lot of energy in. He had a very good game."

Ronald Koeman insists the match in LaLiga between Barcelona and Deportivo Alaves is more important to him than discussing Paris Saint-Germain or Neymar.

A huge Champions League last-16 tie between Barca and PSG begins at Camp Nou on Tuesday and Neymar has been ruled out against his former club through injury.

But Barca boss Koeman stressed the home Alaves match on Saturday was most important to him because it is what comes next.

He also suggested he was considering squad rotation but would not make significant changes prior to the PSG game because he lacks options.

Barca lost 2-0 to Sevilla last time out on Wednesday in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie. It was their first defeat inside 90 minutes in 17 matches across all competitions.

But they have won seven and drawn one of their last eight LaLiga games with Alaves.

"I don't think Neymar is an Alaves player," Koeman said when asked about the injury to the PSG forward.

"This is a question for Monday, not for today. I'm not talking about Neymar, I'm not talking about PSG.

"Saturday's game is more important than Tuesday's. We are going game by game and we want to continue our good streak.

"The result of the Sevilla game is there but we played a very good game. If we repeat the game, we do not lose.

"We dominated in many areas against Sevilla, but you also have to have a bit of luck. We need freshness, but the team is feeling very well.

"You don't play a second half like we did in Seville if the team is not physically well."

Defenders Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo are unlikely to be risked against Alaves.

Koeman added: "Sergino Dest, Miralem Pjanic and Martin Braithwaite have done something [in training on Friday].

"[On Saturday] there is training and we will decide if they are on the squad list.

"For Araujo or Pique, I always believe in the margin of a risk. The objective is to recover players until the end of the season.

"If it is the last game of the season, you can risk more, but I am not in favour of risking a lot for a game.

"Those players have to recover well and step by step. If they are there and they can play, even better."

On the prospect of rotation, he continued: "Of course there are players who have been playing for many minutes with us not having everyone available.

"You have to think about giving rest to those players to be well in the next game. [But] not many [will be rotated], because there is not much we can change either.

"We look at the players, we train and we will decide. By winning the game, you are always mentally less tired than when you don't win.

"The goal is to win. But first you have to play and it will be difficult."

The Alaves match will start a run of four consecutive home games and Koeman added: "It's good to have back-to-back games at home because you save yourself traveling.

"We can rest more now and hopefully we will get players back to start having a very competitive squad again.

"It is good to see the youth team players and the youngsters play, but we need our more competitive players back."

Lionel Messi has scored 10 goals against Alaves in LaLiga in as many appearances against them, including four in his last three.

If he plays against Alaves, he will equal the record held by Xavi for most Barca league appearances by playing in his 504th top-flight match.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman does not believe Sevilla's 2-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg win over the Blaugrana was a fair reflection of the match, while he also questioned the officials.

Jules Kounde opened the scoring in the first half with a fine individual effort, before former Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic wrapped up a potentially significant win in the latter stages.

Lionel Messi did go close several times for the visitors, with Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou keeping him at bay as he made four saves in total – the Moroccan has saved all 18 shots on target he has had to face in this season's Copa.

The two teams renew hostilities at Camp Nou on March 3 for the second half, though Barca have only progressed past Sevilla once in the Copa when losing the first leg to the Andalusians.

Barca shaded the possession (53.6 per cent) and their 13 shots were two more than the hosts, with Koeman left convinced his side had been hard done by.

"It is a result with too much reward for them," Koeman said. "We have seen a Barca playing well, creating a very clear chances.

"We have put a lot of pressure in the second half. I cannot blame the team. There is another game left, we have to try to win and play the final.

"It is difficult at 2-0. We had opportunities to score, but their defence was good, as was their goalkeeper too, but at home this Barca is capable of anything."

Barca were left frustrated by a moment in the second half where Suso was adjudged to have fouled Jordi Alba just outside the box, yet Koeman and his players were convinced the offence occurred inside the box.

The VAR did not appear to intervene, and this left Koeman bemused.

"Mateu Lahoz [the referee] I think was good in general," Koeman said.

"Of course, there was always doubt with the incident of the penalty, because everyone says it was a penalty, so I have to believe them – not only the Barca people [said it should have been a penalty].

"I don't know why the VAR has not intervened."

Sevilla go into the second leg with a significant advantage and know that an away goal will give Barca a mountain to climb, but they are not getting ahead of themselves, aware the most difficult task is yet to come.

"We knew it was going to be very difficult, the team played a great game, we fought to the end and that is worth it, football gives back to you in this way," Rakitic said.

"But we have half the work left to do in Barcelona."

Coach Julen Lopetegui echoed that sentiment, adding: "The team played a great game against a Barcelona that arrived in good form.

"We played well, we defended well and it was a very beautiful game. Now, we have the most complicated and most difficult thing left, which is to play at the Camp Nou. We are aware of the challenge."

Ronald Koeman has hit back at Rudi Garcia after the Lyon head coach accused his Barcelona counterpart of being a hypocrite.

Barca boss Koeman last week admitted to being unhappy with "disrespectful" Paris Saint-Germain after a number of their players and staff members discussed transfer links with Lionel Messi.

However, speaking to beIN SPORTS at the weekend, Garcia pointed out that Koeman publicly stated earlier this season that he wants to bring Memphis Depay to Camp Nou once his Lyon contract expires at the end of the season.

"I read that Koeman was a bit offended that PSG talked about Leo Messi before the Champions League match between PSG and Barcelona," Garcia said. 

"He was not shy about talking about Memphis Depay even after the transfer market. It is called the water sprinkler and the sprinkler has been sprinkled."

Koeman, who is preparing his side for Wednesday's Copa del Rey semi-final first leg with Sevilla, responded to Garcia's comments at a news conference on Tuesday.

"The Lyon coach likes to speak to the press a lot. For me he is not an important man," the former Netherlands boss said.

"For me I just have to prepare for the next games and then we will see."

Messi is into the final four months of his Barcelona contract and has been strongly linked with a high-profile switch to PSG at the end of the season.

Speculation over Messi's future rumbles on, as does the discussion over whether the six-time Ballon d'Or winner can be considered the greatest sportsman of all time.

The debate reopened on Sunday after Tom Brady won his seventh NFL championship ring by helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Asked where Messi ranks on the list of the world's all-time great athletes, Koeman said: "It is always difficult because there are different periods to consider.

"But what Messi has done is something incredible - the number of goals and titles with Barca. I did not see the Super Bowl but Messi is the best in the world at what he does.

"It is difficult to compare him with [Johan] Cruyff and Pele, but what I have seen of Messi is something special."

Messi is expected to return to Koeman's starting line-up for the trip to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, with Barcelona aiming to extend their six-game winning run in all competitions.

Koeman has a tough selection call to make at the other end of the field, however, as Ronald Araujo has joined fellow centre-back Gerard Pique and right-back Sergino Dest on the sidelines.

Frenkie de Jong filled in alongside Clement Lenglet after Araujo limped off in the 3-2 win over Real Betis, but Koeman is still undecided on who will start at the back against Sevilla.


"It is true that if we put Frenkie as a centre-back then we are missing something in the centre of the pitch," he said. 

"If we can choose a recognised centre-back, it is better to play with him there. Without Frenkie in the middle, we lose something."

Oscar Mingueza can potentially shift into the middle, though that leaves a gap at right-back, while Samuel Umtiti is also in the squad but has struggled for fitness.

"Oscar is with us and he has improved a lot," Koeman said. "He has taken the opportunity to be with us. He knows how to play in different positions and has grown thanks to the help of his team-mates. 

"I have no fear of putting a young man into the side. He has taken the opportunity with both hands. You must improve when you have to press. He has room for improvement, but he is doing things very well.

"As for Samuel, physically he is fine at the moment. He's on the squad list and we have the option to play him. If not, we would not name him in the squad. 

"With his history, we are always aware of his physical condition. We are still thinking about his condition but in the many games he has played he has shown his quality."

Barca are in good form but Sevilla are on an even better run, winning each of their last seven matches in all competitions ahead of Wednesday's first leg.

"They have a good team, are very organised and have good individual quality," Koeman said. "That is why they are up there.

"We will have to be good with the ball because they are going to put pressure on us. But if we are at our top level, we can hurt even a team like Sevilla."

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman praised the game-changing impact of Lionel Messi, who came off the bench to inspire a 3-2 LaLiga victory over Real Betis.

Messi was a shining light for Barcelona after being named among the substitutes, scoring an equaliser before unlocking Betis' defence with a sublime pass on Sunday.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored just 136 seconds following his introduction – his fastest goal as a substitute for Barca in LaLiga.

Trincao struck the 87th-minute winner for Barca, who are seven points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, though the latter have two games in hand.

Koeman saluted superstar captain Messi post-match, telling reporters: "I always talk to the players and I express to them my ideas.

"I spoke to Lionel Messi yesterday about whether he was happy with having a rest and that if we needed him during the game, I was going to bring him on.

"That's what ended up happening. We were losing 1-0 and just a few minutes after coming on to the pitch he completely changed the game.

"He scored the equaliser and then added a lot to our play in the second half."

Messi – tipped to leave Barca amid strong links to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City – has scored six goals in his past seven LaLiga games playing from the bench.

Koeman's Barcelona have won their past nine games away from home in all competitions – the third best streak ever for the Spanish giants after 13 in 2008-09 under Pep Guardiola and 10 in 2014-15 under Luis Enrique. Barcelona claimed LaLiga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League in those seasons.

Ronald Koeman was delighted with the character shown in Barcelona's victory over Real Betis but recognises his team must continue to prove their winning mentality.

Barca made it six away wins on the bounce in LaLiga as Trincao's late strike secured a 3-2 victory over Betis on Sunday.

Borja Iglesias' first-half tap-in put Betis ahead, but Lionel Messi scored 136 seconds after his introduction from the bench – his fastest goal as a Barca substitute – to restore parity before Victor Ruiz turned into his own net.

Ruiz atoned with a fine header to make it 2-2, yet Trincao, another visiting sub, had the final say to lift Barca back into second place in LaLiga.

"We must highlight the mentality of the team; in a tough game we have won for quality and for having an important character," Koeman told reporters.

"For me, the first half was not very good. We needed more to open up Betis when we had the ball. When we lost balls, we reacted late. I have not seen a team with much spark in the first half.

"The Copa del Rey [which Barca played in on Wednesday] is a trophy where we are in the semi-finals. It is the shortest way to win something.

"It is important, but we are Barca. You have to show mentality in any game in any competition."

Trincao's strike, which took a slight deflection on its way into the top corner, was the 21-year-old's first LaLiga goal.

However, the winger insisted the most important factor for him was helping Barca to secure the points.

"I didn't need to score, just do my job. You have to help. I'm very happy for the team and the victory," said Trincao, who became the fifth Portuguese player to score for Barca since the turn of the century, after Deco (13 goals), Andre Gomes (three), Nelson Semedo (two) and Ricardo Quaresma (one).

"We changed our attitude in the second half. It was the most important thing for the victory. We want to win everything and we are going to do everything possible to win.

"The spirit of my team-mates helps me a lot. They have all congratulated me for the goal."

Barca have now won their past nine away games in all competitions, the third-best streak ever for the club after 13 in 2008-09 and 10 in the 2014-15 campaign.

They sit seven points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, although the gap will be back at 10 points should Diego Simeone's team overcome Celta Vigo on Monday.

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