Last season at the Ciutat de Valencia Stadium, Ernesto Valverde decided to put a Colombian centre-back into his defence to allow some of his more important players a rest at a crucial stage of the season.
Yerry Mina’s performance was so poor in Barca’s only league defeat of the season, that he’d virtually sealed his own exit before the end of the 90 minutes. He was gone at the end of the season after just six months.
Against Levante on Thursday night, Valverde again rested key players and brought in a Colombian centre-back... with eerily similar consequences for the most part.
Jeison Murillo has had a lot to contend with in fairness. Making debut in what amounted to a virtual second-string Blaugranes defence, and on the right-hand side of a three, wasn’t the best scenario for an introduction, particularly as he’s still learning the Barca trade.
But that said, he’s still got to get the basics right. Like Mina, he was consistently out of position in the first half, and when he did face up against the opposition, he wasn’t quick enough or physical enough to avert the danger. His passing was routinely poor too, rarely finding his targets.
Given that these attributes were said to be a key part of his defensive make up and exactly what Valverde was looking for from him, it was clearly not the start that coach or player would’ve wanted.
The Murillo effect— Marco Ragno (@MarcoRagnoSBT) January 10, 2019
A case in point was Levante’s second goal from Borja Mayoral. Murillo was actually doing exactly the right thing by forcing him away from goal, but a pathetic attempt from the defender in trying to stop the centre-forward meant that the latter was able to get his shot away.
On the face of it, this was the perfect game in which to blood Murillo, and an expectation that he’d bring his La Liga experience to the tie alongside Chumi would’ve been a given.
That is, or was, supposedly one advantage that he had over Mina. He had at least played in the league before and would’ve had some idea what to expect from the opponents.
disorganized barcelona. Boateng making a meal out of inexperienced Chumi. Jeison Murillo looks totally lost. we still had several chances but bottled all of them.— sultan. (@nana_agyei_) January 10, 2019
And yet, perhaps as a result of the early goal and the subsequent nervousness of his colleagues, he too never looked comfortable until well after half-time when Levante began to tire.
If one can deduce that Barca really are now putting all of their eggs in the Champions League basket, then, Murillo practically has the return leg at the Camp Nou to show that his under-par 90 minutes was a one-off.
Unless the Blaugranes manage to reverse the result and Valverde keeps the same XI, or there’s a plethora of injuries forcing the coach to shuffle his pack in La Liga, you have to wonder where the Colombian’s next game will be coming from.