Barcelona has not had a good week after suffering defeats to Getafe and Real Madrid, and the club’s problems are piling up ahead of Wednesday’s crucial trip to Juventus in the Champions League.
Ronald Koeman was already without suspended center-back Gerard Pique for the clash and has since lost Brazil international Philippe Coutinho to hamstring trouble. The Dutch coach’s preparations have been hit further by injury to back-up defender Òscar Mingueza.
Barca has announced the 21-year-old has picked up a leg injury, leaving the club with just two fit senior center-backs for Wednesday’s tie in the shape of Clement Lenglet and 21-year-old Ronald Araujo.
Lenglet’s form has been questioned ahead of the game too. The defender conceded the crucial penalty against Real Madrid on Saturday, and his performances are a “particular cause for concern” for Koeman, according to Hugo Cerezo at Marca.
Yet the Frenchman will need to marshall the defense in the absence of Pique alongside the inexperienced Araujo. The Uruguay international has only 20 minutes of Champions League experience and has never started in Europe’s top competition.
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Barca’s Worst Start for 25 Years
There will also be pressure on Koeman to get a result in Turin. The team’s two defeats mean early wins over Villarreal and Celta Vigo have been largely forgotten about. Indeed it’s the club’s joint-worst start to a season since 1994-95 when only two points were awarded for a win, according to Sport.
The only other campaign which has started so poorly in the last 25 years was last season under Ernesto Valverde. Barca also lost early games against Athletic Club and Granada and drew with Granada. Valverde was sacked in January when the team was top of the table.
Yet Barca can take some confidence from their opening Champions League group stage match against Ferencvaros. The Catalan giants cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Hungarian champions but will face a far tougher test in Turin.
Koeman Has Griezmann Problem
Koeman must also figure out what to do with misfiring striker Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman has started the last two games on the bench after failing to contribute a goal or an assist in 2020-21.
Griezmann could return to the starting XI with Coutinho injured, but there’s no guarantee he will go straight back into the team. Koeman could opt to shift Lionel Messi’s position and bring in Ousmane Dembele or Francisco Trincao in a wide position.
The World Cup winner’s problems at Barcelona have not gone unnoticed, and former France international Bixente Lizarazu offered the forward some advice in interview with Telefoot, as reported by AS.
He cannot find his position, he can no longer play football with Barça. It’s a crisis of confidence. At some point it is better to cut off your hand than your arm. Do not hesitate to leave when you cannot find your place. It’s been 18 months, not just two… the situation is really critical.
Griezmann’s last Barcelona goal came all the way back in July in a 4-1 win over Villarreal in La Liga. The Frenchman could do with rediscovering his goalscoring touch as soon as possible if he is to get his Barcelona career back on track.