Koeman explains decision to leave Man Utd-linked Dembele on bench during Barca's win at Celta


Ronald Koeman has explained his decision to leave Manchester United-linked winger Ousmane Dembele on the bench during Barcelona's win at Celta Vigo.

Barca maintained their perfect start to the new La Liga season by beating Celta 3-0 at Estadio de Balaidos on Thursday night.

Ansu Fati opened the scoring for the Blaugrana in the 11th minute, but the hosts were given hope of a turnaround when Clement Lenglet was sent off for a second bookable offence just before half-time.

Celta failed to make their numerical advantage count though, as Barca doubled their lead when Lucas Olaza put through his own net shortly after the restart.

Sergi Roberto rounded off a comfortable victory for Koeman's men in stoppage time, but Dembele finished the match as an unused substitute.

Goal has reported that Premier League giants United are weighing up a swoop for the French winger, with a potential loan deal mooted if they fail to sign Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, who remains their primary target ahead of Monday's transfer deadline.

Koeman said "that it is up to the club and to the player" when quizzed on Dembele's future prior to his side's trip to Celta, but refused to be drawn on speculation any further after the contest.

Asked why the 23-year-old was left on the bench, the Dutch head coach told reporters: "I think Pedri and Trincao can contribute more defensively than Dembele can, that's why they played."

Koeman added on Barca's latest performance: "We showed a lot of discipline. At the break, we talked about the 4-4-1 system and the players have done a great job.

"I'm very proud of this team today, we have worked very well, with one player less."

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The former Netherlands boss went onto insist that the whole squad is pulling in the same direction again after a turbulent 2019-20 campaign which saw the club plunged into turmoil both on and off the pitch.

"I can't say much about last season, but from day one I've seen the players very eager and eager to turn the situation around," Koeman said. "The players are training very well, and we're better physically."

The 57-year-old manager added on Barca being drawn in Group G alongside Juventus, Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros in the first stage of this season's Champions League: "We can be happy about the draw. Juve and Barca are the two best teams in the group but it will have to be proven."