Koeman expects Eric Garcia to join Barca but says squad still thin

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BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman is confident Manchester City defender Eric Garcia will rejoin the Catalans sooner or later, and admitted his squad need to be reinforced as they are lacking strength in many areas.

Garcia, 20, came through Barca's academy before leaving for City in 2017 but has run down his contract and has not featured for Pep Guardiola's side in the Premier League since late November.

Although he can rejoin the club on a free transfer in June, Barca presidential candidate Victor Font has called for the management committee temporarily running the club to sign the player before the current transfer window shuts on Feb. 1.

"I'm sure he'll come for next season and if it's not possible in January then we'll accept that and move on," Koeman told a news conference ahead of Sunday's La Liga game at home to Athletic Bilbao.

"I don't know if he'll arrive in January or not, that's not my job, all I'm focusing on is tomorrow's game."

Koeman said his Barca squad, who have won their last four league games and have also reached the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, need some reinforcements after players such as Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic left the club last year.

"We've made many changes this season, we've made a bet on young players and right now we're not able to win many things. We must be realistic about where we're coming from and the changes we've made," he said.

Barca beat Athletic Bilbao 3-2 in their last league meeting earlier this month but then lost to the Basques after extra-time in the Spanish Super Cup final.

Athletic are in ruthless form under new coach Marcelino, winning their last five games in all competitions. They thrashed Getafe 5-1 in their last league outing.

"They are a very physical team and are especially strong at set pieces so we must show a lot of concentration," Koeman added.

"We've managed to create a lot of chances against them and we need to put them away."

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)