Barcelona finally come back under Koeman
Barcelona went behind for the eighth time this season under Ronald Koeman after a bright start and, for a few minutes at least, it looked like it might be another tough night. However, Jordi Alba’s swift equalizer and Frenkie de Jong’s first goal since February saw Barca successfully come from behind to win for the first time under Koeman.
The three points has also sent Barca up the table and into fifth place. Barca still remain six points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, and have played a game extra, but suddenly a title challenge doesn’t seem as far away as it did a few weeks ago.
Barcelona impressed in the first half in what Jordi Alba called their best performance of the year after the match. The hosts’ level and intensity dipped after the break but this is still a very good win for Koeman’s team.
Araujo & Mingueza stake claim
Koeman made the brave decision to drop Clement Lenglet for this one, starting youngsters Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza in central defence. It paid off too with the two defenders performing well and helping Barca take all three points.
Araujo looks set for an extended spell in the starting XI after returning from injury and with Pique out for a while. The Uruguayan did put in a couple of challenges that on another day could have been penalized but was otherwise solid at the back.
Mingueza also shone and looked super quick, although he did need Pedri to help him out late on after a rare mistake. The two players drew praise from Koeman after the match, who said, “they showed their quality. They have a future.”
Frenkie finding form
Frenkie de Jong continued where he left off against Levante with another impressive display in a more advanced position. The Netherlands international also popped up with the winner just before half-time.
It’s De Jong’s first goal of the season and follows hot on the heels of his first assist last time out against Levante. The Dutchman’s role has been tweaked in the last two games and it seems to be paying dividends.
2 - Frenkie de Jong has been involved in two goals in his last two appearances in @LaLigaEN (1 goal and 1 assist), as many has he had in his previous 35 matches for @FCBarcelona in the competition. Smile. pic.twitter.com/nTqTgCNNd1— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 16, 2020
The midfielder was supposed to be the big winner when Koeman arrived at Barcelona, given the duo had worked together previously with the Netherlands. It hasn’t happened yet but there are at least encouraging signs Koeman can get the best out of De Jong.
Pedri steals the show
Of course the one Barcelona player who caught the eye once again was Pedri who didn’t stop running and pressing until he ended up wrapped around the goalpost after getting back brilliantly to help his defense
Pedri then endeared himself to fans even further by admitting after the match he hadn’t wanted to come off and would have stayed on if it had been up to him. He only turned 18 last month but his attitude is really something.
So is his football. Pedri also shone going forwards for Barcelona. He probably should have scored with an early header and then teed up Martin Braithwaite with a gorgeous ball. The Dane ought to have slotted home but somehow managed to hammer over the crossbar. What a signing.
Barcelona love playing Real Sociedad
Barcelona’s win means the club continue their extraordinary home record against Real Sociedad and have now won their last 23 matches in a row against the Basque side at the Camp Nou.
Koeman’s men haven’t been too convincing this season but the Dutchman’s opposite number, Imanol Alguacil, was certainly impressed by the Catalan giants on Wednesday night.
“We’ve seen the best Barcelona in a long time. On a defensive level, and that speaks well for them and the respect they had for the game. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Barcelona side which were that aggressive. Even Messi was getting stuck in to win the ball back.”
Big praise indeed from the Real Sociedad boss and the challenge for Koeman and his men will be to continue the form they showed amid a gruelling fixture list. Barca play their third consecutive home game against Valencia on Saturday.
Los Che aren’t in the best of form and only just avoided Copa del Rey embarrassment to Terrassa on Wednesday. Indeed they have not won in La Liga since hammering Real Madrid 4-1 at the start of November.