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Keys to the Game: Celta Vigo vs Barcelona

Finding meaning when there’s not much to play for

Levante UD v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This wild ride of a season is coming to a close.

It could’ve been worse. It could’ve been better.

Expectations rising and falling from week to week.

In the end, it feels like we ended where we started. Uncertainty, and no clear path forward.

With two games to go, and little on the line, the best we can hope for is that Ronald Koeman, living on borrowed time, treats the fans to something different.

A glimpse at what the future could look like.

Use players who were never given an opportunity

FC Barcelona v Getafe - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Riqui Puig will always represent the failures of the Ronald Koeman era if the Dutchman doesn’t return.

From the beginning, the word stubborn was thrown around a lot.

In areas like formation, he adapted, and was able to make a critical change that put Barcelona in a position to compete for a domestic title.

With players, he remained stuck in his ways throughout.

With Riqui, it was punitive.

When Koeman said go on loan, he meant or else you will never play. Not even an opportunity to prove yourself on merit.

With two games to go, Koeman must swallow his pride and allow himself to be wrong.

Give Riqui Puig the start.

In addition to that, resurrect Francisco Trincao. As soon as he was showing promise, Koeman pulled the plug completely. I’d love to get a showcase of his talent while there’s still time.

Junior Firpo is in the same category. Just as he was looking strong and confident, he disappeared from consideration.

Miralem Pjanic was doomed from the start.

For all that, Koeman must be held accountable. Who you believe in, and who you give chances to, is the most important responsibility a coach has.

It’s important in these final two games to see what the forgotten players can do.

After all, there are important decisions to make this summer.

Go back to a 4-3-3

Levante UD v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In order to accommodate new players, you need a new formation.

The 3-5-2 gave life to the season, but then it got stale pretty quickly.

No one benefited more from the switch than Antoine Griezmann, who played an important role down the stretch.

It also gave cover to the center backs, who were in desperate need of it.

But in the end, it failed to do the job. Maybe it should have been deployed in more of a case by case basis. Koeman is not the type of manager to be so flexible.

With a 4-3-3, you can bring in Puig and Trincao, and it will play to their strengths.

You could bring back in Martin Braithwaite, and get the benefits of playing with a true striker. After all Frenkie de Jong is suspended and Barca will need others to make those runs into the box.

Of course, the 4-3-3 is not good for Griezmann and Messi, which is one of the main reasons Koeman probably avoided it.

That’s OK. With a couple of games to go, the players who failed to deliver down the stretch shouldn’t see the field any more than is necessary.

That means no Sergio Busquets and no Sergi Roberto.

Ilaix Moriba and Sergino Dest made mistakes, but they need encouragement, and space to grow.

If it wasn’t clear at the end of last season, it should be crystal clear now. The veterans under contract should be nothing more than supporting cast going forward.

We’ll never move forward without the courage to walk into the unknown.

Let’s hope for a fun and open game

Levante v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Like Barcelona, Celta Vigo is in no man’s land with no realistic chance to earn a spot in Europe.

The good news for fans is that we could see a game that’s less tactical, and more open.

A chance for the players to have fun and show off their talent, without the pressure of getting a result.

Some fans, and probably Ronald Koeman, are still holding out hope that Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid could collapse. They may have a point.

I’m in the camp that it’s unrealistic, and the best thing Koeman can do is make changes.

Not doing so got him into this mess to begin with.

So let’s hope the players go out there and show some creativity.

Seeing Messi enjoy football surrounded by the next generation of players would be a hopeful note to end on.

Celta Vigo is a pretty bad defensive team, having allowed 53 goals.

Take advantage of it. Be direct. Let the up-and-comers lead the way.

It would be fun to see Trincao and Dembele on the wings.

Frenkie, Riqui, and Moriba commanding the midfield.

Dest and Mingueza given a chance to play free.

End the season with something different. Something fun.

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