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30.10.2007 10:09

“We have to improve away from home”

Sandra Sarmiento

Carles Puyol has spoken to Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat about several issues concerning the club, including their poor away form.

Carles Puyol returned to action at Levante after 3 months out through injury. And now he is playing in the unfamiliar right back position. Here he gives an in-depth interview about various occurrences relating to himself and the team in general.

- You were injured for 3 months and missed the pre-season. How have you felt in these first games back?

“It’s been tough. I missed my holidays, when you get news like that it’s hard to take in. You have to find the right mentality and start working from day one. I think we’ve worked well and once you start playing again you feel much better.”

- Are you 100% or is there more to do?

“I feel fine but there are still things to do. That’s logical after not playing for 3 months, but by working on the pitch, little by little I am getting back into my rhythm.”

- Milito, Thuram, Márquez and Oleguer all covered for you well. Do you think it will be harder to hold down a first team place this season?

Sequence_3.JPG“Competition for places is good. I have enjoyed watching the games from the sidelines and all of the players want to get a game, and have done a good job. We have some top quality players and they will all be important. There are lots of games, we don’t get any rest and we will all get chances and because there is competition everybody has to give it 100% and you can’t afford to relax.”

- In Glasgow, Barça used four centre backs in defence (you, Thuram, Milito and Abidal). How do you enjoy playing at right back?

“I enjoy it. I haven’t played there for a long time and I didn’t have a winger to mark. I was free to move up, especially in the first half.”

- Rijkaard has said he might repeat that option, especially in away games. Do you like the idea?

“Whatever the coach says. It’s logical, I know my role. I am a defender and full backs are more attack minded. I can do it but it comes more naturally to other players.”

- Are you more comfortable at centre back?

“I like both positions. I have usually played centre back so I am best adapted to playing there, but I have no problem with playing at full back.”

- Who is your favourite partner?

“Anybody. I feel fine with any of them. I have not had long to get to know some of them, like Milito, but he is a player who positions himself well, talks a lot and makes the job a lot easier.”

- Have players like Abidal, Touré and Milito made the team more solid?

“Yes they are very good players and are doing a good job. They have adapted quickly and will add to the team.”

- What about them one by one. We all knew about Milito from what he did at Zaragoza, but have Abidal and Touré surprised you?

entrenamiento_36.JPG“Yes. I have only had one game with Touré, but from outside I could tell he obviously does a good job. He has balanced the team in a position we had problems with. Abidal is a strong and hard worker. He was a very good signing.”

- Is the Barça style becoming too predictable?

“Yes. We haven’t played well. In Glasgow we tried to play football but the opposition has to try to do the same. In the second half we needed more aggression. But against Almería our football was anything but brilliant.”

- Howe does this change?

“We have to work, we have to learn to find space, move the ball around faster and we have quality players. We’ll find the answers”.

- There is a hard away game to come. Why are Barça not getting such good results away from the Camp Nou?

“I don’t understand it. We have a good team, prepare well but things aren’t working out for us. If we want to win titles we will have to improve.”

- Is it away form that needs to improve?

“You can’t always play the same way, our philosophy is attacking football but sometimes you need to change your ways. We need to be more careful away from home.”

- The internationals came at a bad time because the team was getting into its stride.

rangers-fcb.jpg“They are long breaks. We have so many quality players that most of them play for their countries. You have the games, the travel, the lack of training together, while the opposition gets a rest. We can only hope that the next international break doesn’t affect us so badly.”

- Txiki says several players have hit their limit. Are you mentally and physically exhausted?

“I haven’t played many games so I’m fine, but you do get tired, especially in your head. But that is why we have the squad we have and that makes things easier.”

- As captain, do you think the team has the mentality not to make the mistakes made last season? Have you noted any positive changes?

“Yes, the experience taught us things, we are keen now to win and win again. You can tell from how we train. The team is ready to do important things.”

-Do the captains speak to the players about the internal code?

“We’ll be doing that shortly. The captains have discussed it and now we’ll speak to the rest of the team.”

- Apart from the code, do you feel you are being observed much more this season?

“Yes, but that’s because of last season. We let a lot of people down and we don’t want that to happen again. But I see no problem with it as long as people’s private lives are respected. We are young and want our freedom. Everything has its moment and there doesn’t have to be a problem.”

- We have started seeing stories in then news about the players’ private lives. Does this affect the players, and do they think people will now stop at nothing?

“It’s not only footballers. Watch TV and it seems they’ll stop at nothing. It’s disturbing and sad. But we are still human and what really matters is what we do on the pitch.”

- What about Ronaldinho?

fcb-bilbao_x4x.jpg“He’s fine. There is a debate about nothing. He is important for us and if we want to win things we need him. He can’t always play well, but he has the right attitude, is working hard and is an important player for us.”

- Is he happy at Barcelona?

“Yes, but when people keeping bringing the subject up, it gets to him. You say it doesn’t but it does. He has my support, I have spoken to him several times and he has the team’s support.”

- Will we ever see the Ronaldinho of past seasons again?

“He will contribute everything he has. Any team would want to have Ronaldinho. We have him. We enjoy him. That should be our attitude, for me it is honour to have him in the team.”

- Has Ronaldinho’s leadership been passed on to Messi?

“Messi is having a spectacular season, but he should not take all the pressure. We have some great players, and the pressure should be shared out, that makes it easier for everybody. But he is playing well, and scoring goals. The press and fans have a high opinion of him, but that doesn’t mean that Ronnie is less important and it is now Messi that counts. There are many others players with something to offer.”

- Do you think so much praise might be bad for Messi?

“It doesn’t seem to affect him. He is very quiet and just happy to be able to play football. He has his feet on the ground and he has us to help him, but he still has to grow and there is still a lot he has to improve. And with that kind of attitude he will get better and better.”

- Is the team Messi-dependent?

“No, but he is an important player who is on extraordinary form and we need to take advantage of that. He is the kind of player who can win matches for you.”

- Has Henry got over the pressure of needing to score at the Camp Nou?

“It’s always important. Forwards have to score, but Henry does more than that. He should not be judged on goals alone but on what he does for the team. He is always on the move, asking for the ball, creating spaces and if he can’t use them, he creates them for team mates. These things should also be evaluated. He has also just come back from a long injury. He is one of the best and we are enjoying having him here.”

- Does Henry need more time to get to know the team and for them to get to know him?

“Adaptation always takes time, and there is also the injury he had. You can’t get better overnight, it takes time. He’ll get better as he plays more matches.”

- Speaking about adaptation, what about Bojan and Giovani?

“They are two great players, who are working well and have a good attitude. They are making the most of their opportunities. With the squad we have, they are basic players and we will need them both.”

- Should Bojan get more chances to play?

bojancanvimessi.jpg“All players want to get minutes, but only eleven play plus three subs, so it’s not easy. They have to keen their heads up and keep working. They are young and learning every day, at their age they are lucky to be in a team like this. As long as their attitudes are right, they will improve and will start getting more chances. In fact, that is already happening. They won’t ever be happy to be dropped, but that’s the same for anybody…When they get their chances they will need to take them, but there will be good and bad days. Right now if Bojan plays twice and doesn’t score they’ll start saying he’s useless, so they need to be watched and protected.”
“We have to improve away from home”

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- You have nearly played 250 league games for Barça. What does that mean to you?

“I didn’t know. Every game is a dream for me. I just want to play for Barcelona, and am lucky enough to be here. I don’t count the matches, but just enjoy my colleagues, my club, the fans. I’m a lucky man.”

- On October 2 it was 8 years since you made your first team debut. What has changed since then?

“I’ve certainly improved. It is impossible not to alongside players and coaches like these. When I was young I was a lot crazier, now I play much calmer and more patiently.”

- On Thursday it’s back to the Nuevo Zorrilla, where you made your debut. How do you feel about the next game?

“I have fond memories. We’d had a difficult pre-season, and Van Gaal gave me a chance that I will always be grateful for. It was a dream come true to play for the team I had always supported. Good and bad things have happened to me since, but I’m happy with the way things have gone. Thursday’s game will be a hard one against a difficult team. They are playing well, it’ll be difficult.”

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