Koeman faced a crucial week for the future of his team after the international break. Some of his players like Gavi and Busquets shined with their country proving that Barça has enough talent to battle for titles after some defeats in LaLiga and the Champions League where the statement ‘it is what it is’ summed it all up. There were multiple obstacles to overcome during the week before taking on Real Madrid, starting off against Valencia.
A league without any margin error:
Camp Nou welcomed Barça back after the international break with the need to get points in order to join the race for the title and against a Valencia coached by José Bordalás willing to make it to the European spots.
Doubts on Barça´s defense returned right away into the game, as a defective clearance by Jordi Alba turned into a goal by Gayá. 0-1 for the ‘Valencianistas’. However, their lead did not last for too long, as Ansu Fati came to the rescue as Messi used to do in the past. Draw and back to the beginning.
Then it was a round trip game that Barcelona ended up winning with a penalty scored by Memphis before the break and a goal by Coutinho in the 85th minute to secure the victory and allow Agüero to have a comfortable debut.
Overall, Barça did their homework offensively but left doubts defensively once again. Koeman did not show any self-criticism on the post game press conference and just focused on the positive aspects from his team.
Regarding to the system, Koeman returned to play with three central defenders, full backs and active strikers. The experiment of putting Dest as winger was useful to add more speed to the right wing.
The one in charge of watching the backs was Sergi Roberto, who was part of the defensive line along with Piqué and Eric García. the system benefited Jordi Alba, as he had more freedom to make offensive runs and Busquets, who had more support on defensive transitions.
Win to stay alive:
The Champions League, a treacherous competition, was the second difficult obstacle for Barça to overcome. Anything else but a win meant a goodbye to the top European tournament. The Camp Nou hosted a very defensive Dinamo de Kiev that just fell back.
Dest played again as a right winger on the same system as the previous game, but with some changes like Luuk de Jong, Lenglet and Mingueza. The insistence paid off and Piqué managed to send a header in after a cross by Jordi Alba for the final 1-0.
Ansu Fati and Coutinho had minutes in the second half and the team returned to a more classic 4-3-3. Barça dominated all the way and Ansu Fati was close to score through a bicycle kick. Koeman was too impatient despite the team of Lucescu were not ambitious at all, as they only waited for Barça to make a mistake that did not happen.
As minutes passed by, Barça seemed to conform themselves with the short lead that ended up giving them the win. Three points overall. Next stop, El Clásico.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.
Main image: José Manuel Calviño.
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