Koeman can’t continue now
After the high of Ansu Fati’s brilliant goalscoring return on Sunday came a fresh low for Barcelona as Ronald Koeman’s men suffered yet another disaster in the Champions League.
Benfica ran out deserved 3-0 winners at the Estadio da Luz to leave a hopeless, pointless Barcelona bottom of Group E and Koeman once again staring the sack in the face.
Barcelona's last five matches in the Champions League #UCL:— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 30, 2021
❌ 3-0 defeat to Benfica
❌ 3-0 defeat to Bayern
1-1 draw with PSG
❌ 4-1 defeat to PSG
❌ 3-0 defeat to Juventus
️ The Barcelona ship is sinking fast pic.twitter.com/SrGpkKmfiC
Once again the Dutchman switched formation and it only took two minutes and 13 seconds for Benfica to show Koeman had got things wrong once again as Darwin Nunez scored.
Barca still could have found a way back but Luuk de Jong, who only Koeman wanted don’t forget, missed another sitter and then got in the way of Pedri’s follow-up.
Koeman did make changes but dropping Frenkie de Jong, his team’s most effective player, back into defense was a very bad idea and by the second half it was just chaos. Again.
We all know there are plenty of problems at Barcelona right now due to the club’s finances and injuries but what is crystal clear is the team should still be performing far above the level they are currently.
Another nightmare for Eric
Eric Garcia has endured a pretty torrid time back at Barcelona since returning from Manchester City and had another nightmare in Benfica.
The center-back was at fault for Benfica’s first goal which left Barcelona reeling within minutes of kick-off and ended the night with another red card to add to his collection.
Eric Garciá has received as many red cards (2) as he has won games since re-joining Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/e0Y6QhUhU1— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 29, 2021
Garcia is obviously still only 20 but has offered very little evidence since coming back that he is really up to the job and you have to wonder why Koeman picked him as part of a back three instead of Oscar Mingueza.
In fairness the youngster wasn’t the only defender to struggle. Gerard Pique had to be substituted before he was sent off, Sergino Dest gave away a penalty and Sergi Roberto once again offered nothing at right wing-back.
Luuk de Jong found wanting
Garcia was not the only Barcelona player to suffer at the Estadio da Luz as Luuk de Jong put in another performance that left supporters wondering, not for the first time, why on earth Barca had signed him on deadline day.
Frenkie de Jong had put an equalizer on a plate for his namesake after just 10 minutes but somehow the Netherlands international managed to mess it up completely.
There was another clear chance after the break too that went begging, although he would probably have been offside if he had managed to find the back of the net in any case.
Luuk de Jong failed to hit the target with both of these chances pic.twitter.com/ogxKUoRadu— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 29, 2021
De Jong was clearly brought in as a Plan B, a player to come off the bench to grab a goal, but has had to play regularly due to the injuries to Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Aguero, and Martin Braithwaite.
The injuries meant he did have a chance to try and show what he can do this season on loan at the Camp Nou but has instead only managed to confirm that he should never have been signed in the first place.
Frenkie hits 100 for Barcelona
One of the few players to emerge with any credit from Wednesday’s match was Frenkie de Jong. The Dutchman was the best player on the pitch in the opening stages until Koeman’s curious decision to put him into defense.
De Jong set up early chances for Luuk and Memphis Depay and his move out of midfield was a big loss for Barca and played a part in the team completely losing the plot in the second half.
5 - In just 45 minutes, Frenkie de Jong was directly involved in five shots (two attempted and three key passes), equalling his best record in a #UCL match (five, two and three with Ajax also against Benfica in October 2018). Lighthouse. pic.twitter.com/hvNqT89MAi— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 29, 2021
It ended up being a tough night for the Dutchman on what was his 100th appearance in all competitions for Barcelona. In that time he’s managed 60 wins, 19 draws, 21 defeats, scored 9 times and managed a pass accuracy of 91.9%.
De Jong was asked after the match if a change of coach would solve Barca’s problems and said he didn’t think that was the answer, although he hardly gave his compatriot his full backing.
“I don’t think changing the coach is the solution,” he said. “I can’t talk about Koeman, it’s not my place. We have to keep fighting, stay together and overcome this situation. We can only escape this with hard work and being united as a team.”
Can Barcelona still qualify?
Barcelona’s result means they face a real battle to qualify for the knockout stages and may even have to start thinking about the possibility of playing Europa League football this season if they finish third.
The next two games against Dynamo Kiev are crucial if Barca are to progress and will offer the team hope they can still nick second place. Koeman’s men did after all beat the Ukrainian champions home and away last season.
Predict how Group E will finish...— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 29, 2021
Mircea Lucescu’s side started off with a goalless draw against Benfica but were hammered 5-0 by Bayern Munich on Wednesday in a convincing win for the Bundesliga champions at the Allianz Arena.
Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong both talked up Barca’s chances of qualification after their match but it will need a huge improvement if the Catalan giants are to sneak into the last 16.