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!
Barcelona 4-0 Athletic Bilbao: Match Review
A cup final has to be won. Barcelona and Athletic Club are the two clubs to have played the most Spanish Cup finals in history.
However, for the big occasion, one team was the most dominant. Barcelona kept the ball and ran riot on the Basque defence. The only aspect missing was the finishing, but the Catalans could be proud of their first-half display. The giants were so dominant that they had 82% of possession before the 40th-minute mark.
Marcelino’s men were nothing special apart from a few scares. The red and white outfit kept on defending their goal as if their lives depended on it. On the other hand, Barça could not crack the hermetic Basque backline, but Gerard Piqué tamed every attempt at a counter-attack Iñaki Williams tried to mount.
After a disappointing first-half display in El Clasico last weekend, Barcelona played some of their best football in the first half of the Cup final. Nonetheless, they still had to put their finishing boots on because the scare of getting beaten by an undeserved goal was too big.
Well, when Barça decided to lace their finishing boots, the game was over. The scoreline suggests the most inch-perfect of performances, and that’s precisely what Barça put on display for their fans.
Every player on the pitch put in a thorough performance and, in 12 minutes, the game was over. Frenkie de Jong and Lionel Messi were outstanding, much like Antoine Griezmann and Oscar Mingueza.
Along with the 6-1 demolition of Real Sociedad a month ago, this was perhaps the Catalans’ best performance of the season. What makes this performance better is that it came in a cup final, 721 days after Barcelona’s last trophy. This Spanish cup trophy is the result of months of serious work and beautiful emotions. Ronald Koeman deserves a lot of praise for what he has done with this Barça side.
5′ Sergio Busquets sends a beautiful chip towards Athletic’s area, and Lionel Messi connects with the ball. The Argentine finds Frenkie de Jong, but the Dutchman’s shot hits the post and Unai Simón before the Basque defence clears the ball.
47′ Lionel Messi kickstarts a counter-attack as Sergiño Dest is in acres of space. The American defender squares it to Antoine Griezmann, whose efforts end up in Unai Simón’s gloves.
52′ Barcelona play a short corner. Jordi Alba crosses the ball, and a deflection takes it towards Busquets. Unai Simón takes care of the holding midfielder’s effort.
59′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-1 Barça: Oscar Mingueza intercepts an Iñaki Williams pass in the Blaugrana box. The youngster gets the ball to Messi. The captain spots Frenkie de Jong on the right who sends a great cross to Griezmann, who does not miss twice.
63′ GOAL’ Athletic Club 0-2 Barça: Barcelona play some great football at the edge of h
Their opponents’ area, and Alba sends another stupendous cross. Frenkie de Jong, after a brilliant run, heads in the ball and doubles the lead for his side.
68′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-3 Barça: Messi goes on a beautiful run on the right and finds Frenkie de Jong. After a one-two, the midfielder finds his captain with little to no space. The captain does his usual magic and scores in the bottom corner.
71′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-4 Barça: Pedri finds Alba, who plays the most inch-perfect one-two with Griezmann. The left-back’s backpass meets Messi. The Argentine legend finds the net at Unai Simón’s near post.
Man of the match: Frenkie de Jong
Of course, the leader of this demolition was the main man in midfield: Frenkie de Jong. The Dutchman’s first-half display was great, but it lacked the finishing touch, the end product.
After that, the 23-year-old took it upon himself to destroy Athletic and provided two assists while scoring one himself. This win does not come without a de Jong in the mood. The Blaugrana midfielder was everywhere in the second half, and he tortured a defence by being everywhere at any given time.
It is to no one’s surprise that Barça began being clinical when de Jong decided to play higher up the pitch and with more intensity. This Copa final was also de Jong’s most decisive in a Barça kit.