PONTEVEDRA, SPAIN – JUNE 27: (L-R) Ansu Fati of FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona during … [+] the La Liga Santander match between Celta de Vigo v FC Barcelona at the Estadio de Balaidos on June 27, 2020 in Pontevedra Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
It is considered Ronald Koeman’s first major test on the road for FC Barcelona, considering that until now, the new head coach has only managed his team from the comfort of the Estadi Johan Cruyff or Camp Nou.
On Thursday evening in Spain, as part of their second competitive clash of the season, the Blaugrana travel to the Estadio Municipal de Balaídos – where they are winless in six – to take on Celta Vigo in La Liga.
Barça’s last outing at the ground came in late June of course, where after being held to a last gasp 2-2 draw by the hosts, the domestic top flight title began to slip out of their reach and into the grasp of eventual champions Real Madrid.
Yet Koeman refuses to get hung up on the past, events that were out of his control, and also remained coy about whether the Catalans will change their 4-2-3-1 for this one at his prematch press conference yesterday.
“For me the important thing is that we have a system in which everyone feels comfortable, and that there is competition for that system. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes it can’t be changed,” the Dutchman revealed. “We must take into account the opposition and see where they can hurt us. We do not know if Celta will play with a 4-4-2 or a 5-3-2. So the most important thing is to work our system and if we work little by little we will assume what we need.”
Also insisting that rotations won’t be necessary given that a two-week break in the calendar for international fixtures is coming up, the Blaugrana should line up pretty similar to their 4-0 drubbing of Villarreal on Sunday save for one major change.
In goal, then, Neto keeps his starting berth considering the knee operation-induced absence of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who should return later this month.
Jordi Alba, impressive with an assist for Ansu Fati at the weekend, begins at left back, and is joined by Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto in defense.
As for the double pivots, Frenkie de Jong is expected to keep his spot and welcomes new signing Mirlaem Pjanic to the fold in place of Sergio Busquets, who often gave the ball away in his last showing.
Fati cannot be dropped from the left wing following his recent brace, and on the other flank to the side of central attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho is an Antoine Griezmann who Koeman has vowed he is “very happy” with.
Up top, lone false 9 Lionel Messi will interchange with Griezmann, and the coach insists that he is not bothered by comments the Ballon d’Or holder recently made in the media.
“There’s never a quiet day, but it is always positive that the captain gives this message, and let’s see if we have a little more tranquility now,” the Dream Team legend quipped.
Now based in Barcelona after six years in São Paulo, I have written on these topics at length through previews and analysis while having also covered match reports for
Now based in Barcelona after six years in São Paulo, I have written on these topics at length through previews and analysis while having also covered match reports for tournaments such as the Copa America. As well as writing for Forbes Sports, I edit Yellow & Green Football: a site on Brazilian soccer that is part of the Guardian Sport Network and a partner of O Globo.
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