Barcelona defender Jules Kounde has pressed that the team needs to be a step ahead of where they were last week against Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League.
Speaking in a press conference ahead of the second leg tie against Premier League side, the former Sevilla defender said that the players are aware of the fact that Manchester United are a strong opponent, but they are ready to take up the challenge.
Yes, it’s my first time. It’s a historic and spectacular stadium,” the Frenchman told the media on the prospect of playing at Old Trafford for the first time in his career.
“We come with the ambition and desire to win the match. We’ll have to go one step further than we did in the first leg. Europe is always a big challenge, even if it’s the Europa League we’re playing against a strong opponent. It’s a challenge.”
The 24-year-old went on to say that a strong defence is going to be key for the team against United at Old Trafford.
Adding to it, he mentioned that the Blaugrana already have a strong backline and this can be understood by the fact that they have conceded just seven goals this season in the league.
Our defense has been key since the start of the season. We are doing very well in the league, but there are certain things to improve. It is a challenge not to concede a goal, we will go out with this ambition,” he said.
“It’s a pitch that’s going to get tight and we have to come out plugged in, with maximum intensity. It’s a rival that wins duels and we’ll have to be up to the task. The first minutes are key.”
Against United last time out, Kounde took up the role of the central defender while Ronald Araujo was deployed on the right. Kounde’s role reversed when Barcelona took on Cadiz in the league recently and speaking about this, the Frenchman simply said that this is a decision that rests with Xavi
The position of Ronald or me is decided by the coach. Later, within that, it is a collective effort. Not only the goalkeeper and the four defenders. We all attack and defend. Each one has to do his job. I’m sure that we will see the best Barça,” he added.
Kounde confident that the best Barça will turn up
It must be noted that Kounde is already a UEFA Europa League winner, having won the competition with Sevilla back in the 2019/20 season. When asked about tomorrow’s game, the 24-year-old stated:
“It’s a competition we want to win, we will go out with this ambition and this desire and tomorrow will be no different. Everyone has to do their job tomorrow… I’m sure we’ll see the best Barça tomorrow.”
Manchester United have been in scintillating form under Erik ten Hag and Thursday’s fixture is indeed going to be a tough outing for the team. While speaking about their opponents, Kounde first assessed the performance of the first leg and later went on to praise the Red Devils
It’s a stadium that’s going to be tight, we know that and that’s why we have to be on top of our game, we know that they’re an opponent that wins games quickly.
I don’t know if we lack experience, maybe in some situations to manage the game, like in the start of the second half in the first leg. It’s not something we want, we want to control.
“I don’t think that when we lose control in big games it’s a matter of experience, it’s a matter of desire. It’s something we have to learn, we are very motivated,” he explained.
Further elaborating on Manchester United’s strengths, he added: “Manchester United are a very organised team, very strong… It’s different from the team I played against when I was at Sevilla.”
Barcelona have not had the greatest of recent memories when it comes to big matches in European competitions. However, Kounde insisted that it does not weigh on the team’s mind heading into Thursday’s clash.
We don’t have that feeling, we just want to play a good game, compete and win. It’s a big challenge, but nothing more than that,” he concluded.