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Koeman plays down Griezmann issues ahead of Clasico

MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman insisted the club does not have a problem with Antoine Griezmann ahead of Saturday’s Clasico showdown with Real Madrid.

Griezmann joined Barca from Atletico Madrid for 120 million euros ($142 million) in 2019, however he has yet to find his feet at the Camp Nou and has not scored for the club so far this season.

He was omitted from the starting lineup for Barca’s 5-1 hammering of Ferencvaros in the Champions League on Wednesday, however Koeman said that too much is being made of the situation.

“He’s (Griezmann) got a chance of starting, just like any other player. It’s not good to discuss this every game,” the Dutchman told a news conference.

“He’s an important player, but we want all our players to be at their best. The team is the most important thing and we’ll pick the best players for the game tomorrow.”

Koeman also backed defender Gerard Pique after he criticised the club’s board in an interview with a Spanish newspaper on Friday.

“He’s been here a long time and I’ve been here three months. He’s got his opinion and I respect that,” Koeman said.

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“He’s a clever guy and he knows when he does these interviews that he’s got a game the next day and that he’ll play well.”

Koeman will welcome back Jordi Alba for the visit of Real, but will still be without first-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and defender Samuel Umtiti. Meanwhile, the visitors are set to welcome back captain Sergio Ramos.

The 57-year-old Koeman played in 14 Clasicos while at Barca, but admitted it was a new feeling going into it as coach.

“Hopefully I’ll sleep alright! Of course it’s different, the best thing would be going out there on the pitch, but my playing days are behind me,” he said.

“So the next best thing is to be as close to the pitch as possible. We know it’s an important match but I’m used to that kind of pressure.”

($1 = 0.8435 euros)

Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Toby Davis

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