Rafa BenÝtez: Press Conference before Leeds


A great start for you last weekend... A Leeds side coached by Marcelo Bielsa next - does that represent a very different challenge and how much are you looking forward to that tactical battle?

Obviously, it's a different challenge. I will say that normally when a manager has been in a job for some time, he has an advantage. When a new manager comes in, you need some time to put your ideas into the heads of the players and get the understanding of what you want to do. But we cannot complain and we are happy with where we are. I am really pleased with the attitude of the players. We are progressing, we are working really hard and we will see. Obviously, the teams of Bielsa are very intense, they work very hard and run a lot. We have to manage that and do what we need to do to challenge and match their intensity, while at the same time playing well.

You had players missing last week who were isolating. Can you update us on team news? Will those players return?

Still, we have some issues. Moise Kean is coming back, so we have a new face, but still we have some problems. I didn't give the names the other day, you will know the names better than me. Moise Kean is the one coming back at the moment.

JP Gbamin. Could he be involved? Evertonians have waited a long time to see him in action...

It will not be easy, as there are some players in isolation.

The transfer window closes in just over a week and a half. What's the latest on the future of Moise Kean and James Rodriguez? Do you expect them both to be at the Club when the window closes?

As I've said before... Until the end of August, until the last day, the last minute, there is a lot of speculation. We have to keep working with the players that are here and available - and that is it. That's the only thing I can say. I will give you a new one - we have an injury of [Harry] Tyrer, the young goalkeeper, so we've signed Andy Lonergan as a back-up. He's a player who can give us some experience, because we needed to sort out this problem just in case. We have a new signing, but it's a player maybe nobody was expecting.

Going back to Rodriguez, in particular, is he in your plans? Can you confirm if he's in your plans?

Until 31st August, yes - he's in my plans.

The two players you've managed to sign [Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray] and played against Southampton have been integrated into the squad very early and you've had them for all of pre-season. How important was it to be able to make those signings early - and then how difficult will it be if you do make further signings, for them to go through the same successful process?

Obviously, we know it's much better to have the players early so you can work with them. But I think football now is what it is. You have the transfer window, we are playing games and you have to cope with that. So, if we have new additions that can improve the team and strengthen the squad, then I will be happy. In the meantime, we have to make sure that the players that are here give everything and understand what we are trying to do. I am happy with that because we did really well the other day and hopefully it will be the same in the next game.

You have faced more than 100 managers in your career but never faced Marcelo Bielsa. Watching him from afar and now facing him, what have you made of his career?

Obviously, I know him because I had players at Valencia who were playing in the Argentina national team. Every time (Roberto) Ayala and (Pablo) Aimar had to go to Argentina, I knew about his methods and the way he used to like to do things. When I was in Italy, he was there and I was talking with him in a congress, and he was talking about football so I know him and I have some friends that also know him. I have also seen his team and that is the most important thing - how his team is playing and what they will do - and it will be an interesting challenge. They have been working together for a while but we still have our ideas and our game plan.

You mention the preparation you have for a team like Leeds, but do you spend more time on the opposition for a game like Leeds because they are so unique?

No, not really. The main thing and my priority is with my team. We are trying to be sure that we keep progressing and continue doing things our way. Normally, from Thursday, our preparation is thinking about the opponent, but we are concentrating on our own team the rest of the time.
I was speaking to Mikel Arteta earlier today about the COVID problems he’s had at Arsenal, you’ve also had similar issues already this season. This is a problem every club is going to have. How do you deal with it? It is about trying to do things the right way. We have the players separated and then we encourage them to have the vaccine. We have control on the restaurant and the number of players (that can be in there at once). Social distancing and mask-wearing is also in place every day so we try to encourage all the players to do these things. The problem now is, and I think you will see is very clear, that you can do what you want to do here but then you go outside where there is freedom and you see a lot of people not following the rules. It is what it is but we have to try to manage the best way possible. You cannot stop the virus here or anywhere. It is about making sure you are a little bit protected with the masks, social distancing and all these kinds of things.

Marcelo Bielsa is seen as a master tactician - how do you see him?

His teams are very intense. He is someone who analyses the games every day. I don’t know how many videos he can see or how much analysis he can do but, in the end, it depends on the players you have and if you can put your ideas in place or not. He is doing well with Leeds. Like I said before, it will be an interesting challenge for me, too.

Playing in ‘fierce atmosphere’ at Elland Road...

Some of our players have experience and know the environment and pressure of the fans. It is part of your job to enjoy that and it is much better to play in front of the fans, even if it is away, because it is another opportunity to show your level. I am happy with that and I’m sure the players will be too.

What can Moise Kean bring this season and for the next 12 months?

As I said before, until 31 August, we have to be sure the players give everything and after that we will know exactly who is in our squad and will concentrate on that. At the moment, he has been training these days, he was okay and is another option we have up front. I am happy with the idea that he can give us a hand if it is necessary.

New challenge for DCL as players more aware of him this season?

I think, every year, the players know each other a little bit better. He has enough quality to change things if necessary. Hopefully the team can help him have more chances and he can score even more goals.

Can I confirm, of the six players who weren’t involved last weekend, the only one who have a chance for this weekend is Moise Kean?

Yes, at the moment, yes.

Can you give us more details about James’ physical levels, his levels of focus, his commitment with the team? Because the Colombian national team is playing in two weeks, and we have doubts about him at the moment…

What I said before is what I can say to you. Obviously, I can understand the people want to know everything. The situation at the moment is he is our player until 31 August. He was not available last week, he is not available this week, but hopefully he will be fine for the next week and we can carry on with the training sessions and see what happens until the end of the transfer window.