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Koeman can’t use Barcelona’s difficult start to 2021/22 as an excuse

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The Catalans need to hit the ground running

SD Eibar v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

In just six weeks’ time, the 2021/22 La Liga season will begin in earnest.

No sooner will most of the players have finished with their European Championship or Copa America assignments than they will be back into pre-season training and getting ready for another long-haul.

How Barca begin their campaign will largely author the rest of it. Remember how they started under Ronald Koeman last summer?!

The Dutchman can point to the mitigating circumstances in play at the time, and he did steady the ship to the extent that, until just a few games from the end of the season, Barca had genuine aspirations of winning La Liga from an almost impossible position.

There’s no such excuse available to him on this occasion, however.

Everyone knows what’s expected and the Catalans simply have to hit the ground running.

Netherlands v Austria - UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group C Photo by Marcel ter Bals/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Games against Real Sociedad, Athletic Club, Getafe, Sevilla and Granada are certainly not easy, and three points in each are far from guaranteed.

However, that’s exactly what Koeman needs to achieve if Barca don’t want to go another season - potentially the penultimate one for Leo Messi - without the league trophy.

It’s expected that Messi will soon sign his contract renewal with the club, and whether that be before the end of the Copa America or after is neither here nor there. As long as it’s signed.

In so doing, it should galvanise his team-mates who, despite their bravery in some games last season, were lacking that spark in others.

Everyone has to be pulling in the same direction now.

Will that include Ansu Fati or Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who are both recovering from knee injuries? It’s difficult to say at this point, and the next few weeks will be crucial in that respect.

Lest we forget the loss of an in-form Ousmane Dembele, and the possible loss to the best thing to come out of Barca since Messi; Pedri.

Spain Training Session and Press Conference - UEFA Euro 2020: Quarter-final Photo by Joosep Martinson - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

The latter certainly needs his rest now, and Barca have lobbied the RFEF to get his name taken off of the list for the Olympics.

It isn’t clear if the player himself is happy with that decision or not, though it would be easy for him to just keep saying yes to playing because he believes it’s the right thing to do.

When you’re such a difference maker, everyone wants a bit of you, and you need to be strong and resilient to get through such periods.

Despite what may or may not happen with all the injured or tired players, Koeman’s focus can only be on getting as close to maximum points as possible with the staff he has available to him at the time.

Any attempt to divert the blame away from himself if that doesn’t happen gives everyone a clear measure of the man.