Barcelona pack their bags once again, this time away to the Groupama Arena in Budapest to face off against Ferencvaros as the UEFA Champions League returns to action. The Catalans have fared well in the group stages and sit comfortably on first, three points clear of Juventus.
The last matchday against Dynamo Kyiv saw some big names rested for the Spanish side, and the coming trip to Hungary seems to be no different. With qualification to the next stage guaranteed, Koeman will look to utilize the opportunity to continue his good spell of rotation, whilst not compromising on the result.
Heading into the clash against Ferencvaros, Koeman has decided to rest Lionel Messi, Phillipe Coutinho and Marc Andre ter Stegen. Besides, they continue to be devoid of the services of Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Ronald Araujo, Samuel Umtiti, and Ansu Fati through injury.
What to expect from Ferencvaros?
Since their 5-1 demolition at the Camp Nou, the Hungarians have endured a mixed run. Domestically, they have won four of the five games since comfortably. Yet, results in the Champions League have not been kind. Two losses and a draw since the night at Camp Nou see them languish at the bottom of the table.
Yet, the idea of qualifying for the Europa League is still very much in hand. Serhiy Rebrov will be keen to make the most of this home clash to get the upper edge over Dynamo Kyiv.
One can expect Rebrov can come up with a tactful plan for Ronald Koeman. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)
After his traditional 4-2-3-1 was ripped open by Koeman’s men, Rebrov has been fearlessly experimenting his formations in the Champions League. He has tested the usual 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1 and experimented a five-man defence against Juventus.
An early goal from Myrto Uzuni boosted Ferencvaros. The five-man defence held the fortress rock-solid, yet gave away in the last minute of the game to let the Italians run away with all three points.
One could expect a similar approach against Barcelona come Wednesday night. The overload in the centre can cause problems for Barcelona’s midfield. As was evident from the recent game against Juventus, openings could only be created only the play was switched to the wings. The Hungarians have never been a side that presses high, yet can be ruthless on the counter. The disallowed goal against Barcelona was another example of the same.
Barcelona have nothing to lose heading into this clash, and Koeman will have to aim to produce the best result using minimal resources. Undoubtedly, exploiting the flanks will be the way forward. Yet, given the fragile defence, it will be crucial to keep the likes of Tokmac Chol Nguen and Franck Boli in check.
How should Barcelona line-up?
On the left-wing, Ousmane Dembele could get a deserved start. After a brief period where he started game after game, yet that period seems to have passed. After failing to secure a starting spot against Osasuna, the Frenchman will be eager to match the manager’s eye again.
Koeman could depute Fransisco Trincao on the right-wing. The youngster has had a silent start to his Barcelona career. However, a bright cameo against Osasuna could earn him a start on Wednesday night. The duo of Trincao and Dembele will be essential to exploit Ferencvarosi’s weaknesses in the wider areas.
Keeping the fragile situation in the League in mind, Koeman would prefer to use this opportunity to the benched players to make their mark. And this would start right from Martin Braithwaite at centre-forward. The Dane has impressed in his last two starts, and this could well see him called up for a third consecutive start.
With three goals and an assist in his last two games, Braithwaite fully deserves a start in midweek. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)
As the no. 10, Pedri may get yet another start. As the season progresses, the 18-year-olds importance keeps increasing. Pedri has featured in every one of Barcelona’s games so far, and there is nothing to indicate that the night in Hungary will be any different. Nevertheless, he could be substituted at halftime to give Riqui Puig some deserved minutes.
In the midfield pivot, one can expect a duo of Miralem Pjanic and Carles Alena. Alena’s passing accuracy and press resistance have been breathtaking in the few opportunities he has got. Meanwhile, Pjanic still hasn’t found his way up the pecking order since his move from Juventus. The coming game could be his ticket to regular minutes.
Rotations could even extend as far back as left-back as Jordi Alba could be given some time off. Keeping in mind the grinding fixture list ahead, Junior Firpo could feature in his third consecutive game. Deputed at right-back could be Sergino Dest who has been phenomenal since he arrived at the Camp Nou.
The central defence has been a constant source of concern this season as the injuries keep stacking up. Though Clement Lenglet has made the squad, the chances of him playing after his recent injury are very feeble. It seems all but certain that Oscar Mingueza will start alongside Frenkie de Jong in defence. The relatively inexperienced duo will have to be wary of Ferencvarosi’s threat on the counter.
Between the posts, Neto will get the nod after a significant stretch of time, owing to ter Stegen’s exclusion from the matchday squad.
Dest · Mingueza · de Jong · Firpo
Pjanic · Alena
Trincao · Pedri · Dembele