Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has left Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho out of his starting XI for Tuesday’s La Liga clash against Real Valladolid.
The Catalan giants play their final fixture before Christmas at the José Zorrilla Stadium with Miralem Pjanic and Clement Lenglet coming back into the team to replace the two big-money buys.
Here’s a look at tonight’s team:
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It’s a surprise move by Koeman but comes after another underwhelming performance by Barcelona on Saturday in a 2-2 draw against Valencia. The result has left Barca with just six wins from their first 13 matches.
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Koeman Switches Formation
Koeman has also named three center-backs in his starting XI. Clement Lenglet, Oscar Mingueza, and Ronald Araujo all start which suggests he has tweaked his formation for Tuesday’s match.
Full-backs Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba are also in from the start once again with midfielders Frenkie de Jong, Pjanic, and Pedri also getting the nod, while Sergio Busquets also drops to the bench.
Captain Lionel Messi and striker Martin Braithwaite complete the line-up in what is certainly an interesting selection from the Barca boss who has preferred to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation since taking over.
Coutinho and Griezmann are available from the bench if needed along with youngsters Carles Alena, Riqui Puig, Francisco Trincao, and defenders Samuel Umtiti and Junior Firpo.
Barca look as though they will set up in a 3-5-2 formation with the two full-backs joining Pjanic, De Jong, and Pedri in midfield. Messi and Braithwaite will lead the attack against Real Valladolid.
Can Barca Cure Travel Sickness?
Barca will be favorites to take all three points but have struggled on their travels this season and have managed just one win on the road in La Liga in 2020-21.
Their sole victory came at Celta Vigo at the start of October when they ran out 3-0 winners thanks to strikes from Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto, and an own goal by Ivan Villar.
Barca’s other away fixtures have brought defeats at Getafe, Atletico Madrid, and newly-promoted Cadiz, while the Catalan giants could only manage a 1-1 draw at Alaves.
Koeman spoke about his team’s disappointing form ahead of the match at a news conference, as reported by Sport.
We’ve changed things and are changing things with the team. A lot of young players are playing and that brings inconsistency. For the future it’s good, but Barca have to win things, fight for titles and win games.
It’s a complicated situation. We need time because we’re making changes, but we’re Barca and we need to win games. That’s the complicated thing at the moment, more so for us than for other teams.
An improvement will be needed if Barca are to see off Real Valladolid and get back to winning ways. The hosts start the game in the relegation zone but are unbeaten in their last three matches in all competitions.
Barca may be relieved that it’s their final away fixture of what has been a rollercoaster 2020 both on and off the pitch. The Catalan giants play their last match of the year on December 29 at home to Eibar.