Koeman starts the year with a win
The pressure was back on Ronald Koeman ahead of the match after a disappointing draw to Eibar last time out. The Dutchman responded by reverting to a back four, dropping Antoine Griezmann and handing fit-again Ousmane Dembele a start.
Koeman was rewarded with all three points but Barca hardly impressed against La Liga’s bottom side. Missed chances and a lack of creativity were once again on show, while Koeman’s substitutes were late and didn’t help kill off the game.
Oscar Mingueza and Miralem Pjanic arrived on 75 minutes, while Antoine Griezmann was only given the last nine minutes. Koeman’s Barca are now six games unbeaten and up to fifth in the table but still look far from convincing.
Barca’s lack of goals is a worry
One of the main problems is Barca’s lack of goals. The team have been undone by individual mistakes this season and their precarious 1-0 lead made for an unnecessarily nervy end to the match.
Barca’s lack of goals is certainly becoming a worry and led Koeman to reiterate once again after the match that he wants to bring in a forward in January. Whether he will be granted his wish or not remains to be seen.
No team has scored more goals than Barca in La Liga so far this season but chances continue to be missed, and the club’s failure to bring in a replacement for Luis Suarez and Ansu Fati’s long-term injury are being felt.
De Jong delivers again
One of the few positives for Barcelona against Huesca was the sight of Frenkie de Jong latching onto a glorious pass from Lionel Messi and coolly placing it past goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez.
It’s another decisive contribution from De Jong who has been enjoying getting forward more often in recent weeks and been delivering the goods.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen joked about De Jong’s scoring record after the match, but the Dutchman does now have two goals and an assist in his last five starts for Barca.
And there’s no doubt Barca certainly need more goals from midfield. Pedri has managed two but looks like he needs to work on his finishing, while Miralem Pjanic and Sergio Busquets are yet to score this season and are hardly known for their goalscoring exploits.
Messi celebrates more milestones
Messi’s assist for De Jong was the 300th of his extraordinary career on a night where he also made his 500th La Liga appearance for the Catalan giants.
The Barcelona captain was also making his 750th appearance in a Barcelona shirt and was a little unlucky not to get on the scoresheet too.
Messi is on a real drought when it comes to scoring from free-kicks and looked set to end that run in the first half before being denied by a superb save from Alvaro.
Rough night for Griezmann
While Messi went straight back in the team after missing the Eibar draw there was more misery for Antoine Griezmann who was dropped again. The Frenchman looked completely miserable as he was spotted, rather unfortunately standing by the exit sign, watching the warm-up ahead of kick-off.
The Frenchman did finally get on in the 81st minute, replacing the ineffective Martin Braithwaite, but simply didn’t have time to make an impact. Koeman explained his decision to leave Griezmann out again after the match.
“I trust each player in our squad. If we go for three midfielders, we have space for three forwards. With Messi open on one side we went for those who can give us a lot of depth in Ousmane Dembele, and Martin Braithwaite because in these type of games we need a player of his style. That doesn’t say anything about Antoine. We need all the players, there are many games ahead.”
There’s no doubt that Griezmann is still struggling to make an impact at Barcelona. He has five goals and two assists from 20 appearances in all competitions but hasn’t scored now in his last seven games.