Ronald Koeman’s Barça, at its finest!
Loss against Getafe, defeat against Madrid, draw against Sevilla… Ronald Koeman’s Barça endured a few rough weeks where they couldn’t get their first scalp of the season. Against Juventus, however, everything changed.
Koeman’s Barcelona played at the peak of their ability in every aspect of the game bar finishing. From defence to attack, Barcelona dominated their opponent and overrun their midfield too. They had a thorough game, with their best player not being named Lionel Messi. Pedri, 17, was the Man of the Match and made Pirlo’s side dizzy with his dazzling dribbles and creative passes.
The attack, as a unit, was superb, but they lacked finishing. Alas, that’s what you get when you don’t have a designated striker on the pitch. The Catalans’ poor finishing was only a testament of their splendid chance creation. From Dembélé’s dribbles to Messi’s unpredictability, passing by Pedri’s liveliness and Griezmann’s intelligent runs. Everything was great. Also, at the back, it was a serene might. Even if Alvaro Morata found the net on three occasions, he was offside for the three attempts. He didn’t bother the Catalans’ defence and Ronald Araújo, then Frenkie de Jong, aligned with Clément Lenglet, seems like a perfect defence.
The craziest part of all this is that Ansu Fati, the man in form, wasn’t even on the pitch at the start. Culés kept wondering why but they got their answer when Dembélé and Pedri had two astonishing games on both wings. The luxurious problem now is to see how Pedri, Dembélé and Fati could feature in the next match, granted Coutinho doesn’t come back for it.
Surely Koeman’s best game as a Barça manager, he can be proud of his players and his tactics. He outclassed Pirlo massively. Now more than ever, Koeman has to confirm his side’s promising signs by winning in the Basque region. Visca Barça.
Standout performer: Ousmane Dembélé
Pedri this, Messi that. The real winner of this game is Ousmane Dembélé. Koeman trusted the French winger for one of the most prominent fixtures of the campaign, and it paid dividends. More importantly, Koeman deployed Dembélé on the right, his preferred side. Against Danilo, Dembélé danced his way to the opposition area and could’ve (should’ve!) scored more.
His goal? Alright, it was a deflected effort. But it was sensational. He went in from his side, and his trademark fake shot worked. His attempt was on goal, so he gets credited with it.
Image via Imago
Other than the bizarre goal, Dembélé was lively, causing all kinds of havoc in the opposition area and frustrating Danilo. A superb player on his day, this day came, and Dembélé might have cemented his place on the right, at least for the time being. If he confirms his recent good form on the weekend, the former Rennes winger might be Koeman’s beat option on the right.
Superb, simply superb from Dembélé!
A warriors response
It was a magical night in Turin. Coming off a Clasico defeat, one expected a mentally weak Barcelona to show up against Juventus. However, it was a completely different side that showed up on the night. They came like a storm and swept the Italians away with no respite. It was a display that had the word ‘dominance’ written all over it. Unlike the Barcelona we have come to know recently, it was not an individual performance that saw them get across the line. Every one of the eleven players that stepped on the pitch had a commendable contribution worth mentioning. They came, they saw and they conquered.
Standout player: Pedri
A 17-year-old who starts against a side is Juventus is the last person expected to have a crucial impact on the game. Pedri is a talent that Barcelona must preserve and polish to the best of their abilities. He is truly something very special.
Image via Imago
From the first whistle, he was a storm on the left-wing. For all his antics, Cuadrado was left with no answers against the youngster. He often dropped deep to facilitate in the buildup when Juventus pressed high. Yet, he was seldom on the losing end of a duel. His strong presence and maturity at such a young age is truly a rare asset. The ball was glued to his feet, and his pinpoint close-control made his a joy to watch. 5 million you say? Yes sir, Bargain of the decade!
How should Barcelona lineup against Dynamo Kyiv?
If the horrid performance against Atletico Madrid was not enough, injuries continue to plague Barcelona’s season further. The Catalans were outplayed at the Wanda Metropolitano. However, the question is: How does the team recover from a defeat like that?
After initial injuries to Ansu Fati and Sergio Busquets threatened to derail the Catalans season, the club has now confirmed both Gerard Pique and Seri Roberto to be out through injury for a long spell.
Yet, for all the mayhem in the league, Barcelona’s position in the champions league is safe. With three wins from their opening three encounters, they sit untouched at the top of the group. Ronald Koeman pointed to the same when asked about his decision of resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong. With so many key players out injured and others rested, how should Barcelona line-up against Dynamo Kyiv?
What to expect from Dynamo Kyiv?
The first game between the two sides provided more than it had promised. Kyiv were missing 13 players through COVID-19, yet that did not reflect on the pitch. Barcelona dominated the opening spell of the game. However, beyond the 25-minute mark, there was a sudden drop in energy levels. The Catalans seemed to ease off, opening the gates to a close-fought level headed battle which could have gone either way.
Mircea Lucescu has stuck to his successful 4-1-4-1 in the Champions League too. The overload in midfield is a potent obstacle to most oppositions, though one would expect Barcelona to break it down. The Ukrainians have often resorted to, and will most probably look to once again implement a low block. The press is high, however, isn’t very prominent in the opposition half.
Lucescu will bring up a harbour of troubles for Barcelona. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)
Instead, Lucescu’s men look to hit on the counter. Victor Tsygankov, Vitaliy Buyalski and Vladydlav Supryaga have time and time again proved to invaluable for the same.
Learning from their mistakes, Barcelona will have to plug the spaces in between lines to come back home with all three points. It is a much younger side travelling to Ukraine. Moreover, with this being a chance for many of them to impress, one can expect the youth to step up.
How should the Barcelona line-up?
The only department that seems sorted for the time being is the Goalkeeper. Yet, ter Stegen too is coming off a horrid mistake at the Wanda Metropolitano. One that cost Barcelona the match. Undoubtedly, the German will be keen to make a statement on Tuesday.
The defence is in jeopardy. Gerard Pique could likely miss anywhere between three months to the end of the season after suffering a muscle sprain and partial cruciate ligament tear. Ronald Araujo is not fit to compete either, and with Samuel Umtiti’s state not helping the cause, Koeman stares into blackness.
Yet, one man’s loss is another’s gain. Given the situation, young Barcelona B centre-back Oscar Mingueza could get his chance to impress. In fact, it was a point Koeman specifically hinted to at the pre-match interview. Alongside him will undoubtedly be Clement Lenglet, whose importance is now more than ever. In Pique’s absence, the Frenchman will have to take up the onus of leadership and marshalling the troops.
Sergi Roberto’s injury opens the door for Sergino Dest to start the game at right-back. Unquestionably, his pace will be crucial to neutralise Kyiv’s threat on the counter.
At left-back, one expects Jordi Alba to start once again. In the absence of Lionel Messi, the Spaniard’s importance will be more than ever to create chances going forward.
Ronald Koeman could opt for a change in formation going into this clash, given his limited resources. Indeed, a 4-3-3 would be an ideal setup to try with the new crop of players. Miralem Pjanic could start as the defensive midfielder operating deeper in the position. Nevertheless, It is not a new role for the Bosnian, as he has played as a single pivot on many occasions in his career.
The midfield could be completed by the duo of Pedri and Carles Alena. Pedri had a comparatively quiet night against Atletico Madrid and will look to make amends. Carles Alena could finally get a well-deserved start after being neglected from the start of the season.
Antoine Griezmann could well start as the centre-forward on the night. The Frenchman has come under intense scrutiny by the media, both for his performances and statement made by people in his environment. Indeed, it will be an essential night for the World Cup winner, as he will lead the Catalan attack.
🗣 — Griezmann: "I am very well here at Barça, they have welcomed me very well. I want to help the team. They trusted me and now I want to reciprocate that trust by helping the team win. There is no problem with anyone, I'm really fine and I just ask you to leave me a bit calm." pic.twitter.com/XuOLl92GQH— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 23, 2020
Flanking him on the left side would be Ousmane Dembele, who is undoubtedly a major asset for Koeman. In these trying times with limited options, his all-round play comes as a whiff of fresh air.
On the right-flank, Fransisco Trincao would be the ideal option. Koeman has under-utilised the Portuguese winger so far. However, Tuesday night could be his chance to impress as the Dutch manager looks to rest key players. Moreover, his combination with Dest will be crucial for Barcelona to break down Lucescu’s side.