Although La Liga begins this weekend for most of the teams in the Spanish top flight, Barcelona still have a couple more weeks of their pre-season before their 2020/21 campaign begins in earnest thanks to their participation in the latter stages of last season’s Champions League.
This evening, a friendly against Gimnastic Tarragona will showcase Ronald Koeman’s XI for the first time, and likely to hint at the formation and style he will play in the forthcoming season.Moreover, we should have an idea of the players that the Dutchman favours to implement his ideas.
With Lionel Messi back in the fold, he’ll be the first name down on the team sheet, or at least he should be for fear of reigniting an internal war.
Ousmane Dembele is back to full fitness, Antoine Griezmann is raring to go and Phil Coutinho has returned to the club after winning the Champions League whilst on loan at Bayern Munich, Barca’s conquerors in last season’s competition.
Youngsters, Pedri and Trincao have been working well in training, meaning there are already six players with a frightening array of skills at Koeman’s service.
Is there a way he can keep them all happy and playing most games?
If Coutinho stays for example, is he going to be played in his natural position, where he’s likely to thrive? Can Koeman fit everyone into the XI in their favourite roles and still have a coherent unit playing the ‘Barca way’?
It’s quite the conundrum, particularly because Barcelona are a club that have already had more than their fare share of upheaval since that 8-2 debacle against the Bavarians.
A former club legend, Koeman’s standing at the club isn’t in question, and, unlike Quique Setien before him, he should at least be given a grace period to help get his ideas implemented.
However, as a manager, he’s never really scaled the heights, and so his management of such big egos will be one thing to keep an eye on.
It’s been 13 years since he won a league title of any description, the Eredivisie with PSV, with his tenures at Everton and Southampton not too inspiring.
He has to hit the ground running ideally, to keep the naysayers quiet if nothing else. Any sort of negative momentum in the papers and digital outlets could have a marked effect on how the team performs.
The fact that he has so much talent at this disposal could be as much of a hindrance as a help, but if he’s able to keep the team on an even keel, then Koeman could well be the saviour Barca need, and just when they need him.