Koeman grateful for Messi's support in transitional season for Barca

SHOWS: BARCELONA, SPAIN (DECEMBER 28, 2020) (BARCA TV - MUST NOT OBSCURE LOGO)

1. VARIOUS OF FC BARCELONA PLAYERS WALKING ONTO TRAINING PITCH

2. GOALKEEPER TER STEGEN WALKING ONTO PITCH

3. COACH RONALD KOEMAN WALKING

4. VARIOUS OF FORWARD ANTOINE GRIEZMANN WARMING UP

5. PLAYERS WARMING UP

6. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FC BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN SAYING AS REPORTER ASKS ABOUT LIONEL MESSI'S WORD PRAISING KOEMAN:

"I'm not sure if it makes me more calm but of course I'm grateful because he's a very important player to this club and in the world of football so anyone would be happy for him to speak well about you. So I have to thank again but I'm the same person and will try to bring the team forward. We are making changes and it is a transitional year where he remains a key and important figure for this team. If we improve during the season we can be happy."

7. MIDFIELDERS PEDRI AND MIRALEM PJANIC RUNNING

8. FORWARD OUSMANE DEMBELE WARMING UP

9. KOEMAN WALKING DURING SESSION

10. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FC BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN SAYING:

"I think it's perfect that him as any other player can do an interview to tell their opinions. In his case I have always been calmed and I will not be more calmed because Leo said he will only decide about his future at the end of the season, it can not influence. The only thing we can do is to get his best performance in matches."

11. VARIOUS OF GOALKEEPERS STRETCHING

12. PLAYERS STRETCHING

13. PJANIC AND MIDFIELDER SERGIO BUSQUETS RUNNING

14. GRIEZMANN AND DEFENDER SAMUEL UMTITI RUNNING

15. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FC BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN SAYING:

"Firstly Lio (Messi) had troubles in his ankle and that's why he couldn't train and was not in good conditions to play tomorrow's match, and that's why we gave him two more days of holidays. So he'll come back after Eibar match and our doctors told us after a week without training he will most likely be fine to train after this match."

16. VARIOUS OF PLAYERS COUTINHO AND CLEMENT LENGLET SPRINTING

17. KOEMAN

18. PLAYERS SPRINTING

19. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FC BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN SAYING:

"They are a very competitive team (Eibar) which always try to press the contrary. On the soccer side we have to play very good compared to our last match where we did find some spaces when our opponent pressure us, so we'll have to play very well if not it will be a very complicated match."

20. VARIOUS OF TER STEGEN TRAINING

21. COUTINHO DRIBBLING AND PASSING

22. PLAYERS PASSING BALL

23. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FC BARCELONA COACH RONALD KOEMAN SAYING:

"Ousmane (Dembele) is fine, he's training since days with the team and he worked fine too when we had the match against Valladolid. So at first yes, he'll be on the squad list tomorrow."

24. DEMBELE DRIBBLING AND PASSING

25. VARIOUS OF PLAYERS PASSING BALL

26. DEMBELE AND COUTINHO DOING PUSH UPS

STORY: Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman is grateful to Lionel Messi for endorsing his appointment and praising his impact, even though they are enduring their worst start to a season in 33 years.

Messi said a young team were growing under the Dutchman as they bid to improve on their current fifth place in La Liga, eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

"I'm not sure if it makes me more calm but I'm grateful because he's a very important player to this club and in the world of football, so anyone would be happy for him to speak well about them," Koeman told a news conference on Monday.

"But I feel the same way, I'm trying to get the team to move forward. It's a transitional year with lots of changes but he's still a very important part of this team and if he can help us improve more for the rest of this season we can be happy."

Messi, who is heading into the final six months of his contract with Barca, will miss Tuesday's home game against Eibar due to an ankle injury but should be fit to face Huesca on Jan. 3.

French winger Ousmane Dembele is set to return to the team against Eibar after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Eibar are hovering above the relegation zone but gave champions Real Madrid good game this month before losing 3-1.

"They are a very competitive team, who always try to press their opponents high up the pitch," Koeman said.

"We will have to play well and make the most of the space when they press us. If we're not on top form, it'll be a tough game."

(Production: Miguel Gutierrez)