By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has called Valencia a difficult club to manage as he prepares to face his former team for the first time since ending a tumultuous spell in charge in 2008.
The Dutchman's time at Valencia was arguably his worst period in a long coaching career, witnessing a dressing room revolt, fan protests and a string of terrible results which led to him being sacked with the team on the brink of relegation.
Valencia did manage to win the Copa del Rey shortly before he was sacked, however, the last trophy lifted by the team until they beat Barca in the 2019 Spanish Cup final.
"Valencia was not my best memory as a coach. I may have made some bad decisions when I was there," the 57-year-old Koeman told a news conference on Friday.
"It was a short stay, but at least we managed to win the Cup. Valencia is a difficult place, they have had a lot of changes in the last 15 years and it's not a peaceful environment in which to work."
Few could argue with Koeman's analysis of Valencia, who have appointed 12 coaches in the 12 years since he was fired.
Current boss Javi Gracia, meanwhile, offered his resignation earlier this season before withdrawing it, claiming the club had broken promises made to him about strengthening the squad.
Valencia are in mid-table with 14 points from 13 games this season but have managed to beat champions Real Madrid as well as early pacesetters Real Sociedad.
Barca have also faced many problems this term but head into the game with renewed confidence after beating visiting Sociedad 2-1 on Wednesday with a performance widely hailed as their best under Koeman. They are now fifth, six points off top spot.
The coach challenged his side to build on the momentum as well as show more ruthlessness in front of goal as they look to win three league games in a row for the first time this season.
"We would like to play like we did against Real Sociedad in every game and I hope we can stay on that path and win again," he added.
"Every game we play depends on us, and we have to play with the same level of concentration and energy. We're a team that creates a lot of chances, we're playing some great attacking football lately but we need to learn to kill games off more."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)