Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman took time out to explain why he opted to change his team’s formation against Real Valladolid on Tuesday in La Liga.
The Dutchman has played his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation since taking charge at the Camp Nou but raised eyebrows ahead of the match by going with three center-backs at the José Zorrilla Stadium.
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Koeman’s New Back Three
Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet, and Ronald Araujo all started the game, while big-money buys Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho had to settle for a place on the bench.
The move worked well with Barcelona running out 3-0 winners and securing just their second away win of the season in La Liga thanks to goals from Lenglet, Martin Braithwaite, and Lionel Messi.
Koeman spoke to reporters after the match about his decision to change his team around and why he had opted to go with a new system, as reported by Reuters.
For this game we changed our formation to give us more security at the back and make the most of the quality of our full-backs.
At the same time, we were able to build plays without any problems and have lots of possession and players running between the lines. We saw a team that meant business, that showed good concentration and we created a lot of opportunities.
The Barca boss also left veteran midfielder Sergio Busquets on the bench and handed summer signing from Juventus Miralem Pjanic a rare start. The midfielder justified his inclusion with a strong performance.
Barca’s win means they stay in fifth but are just two points behind Villarreal in fourth and Real Sociedad in third. Koeman’s men would leapfrog both if they were to win their game in hand.
Praise For Pedri
Koeman also took time out to praise 18-year-old Pedri who shone during the match and set up Messi for his record 644th Barcelona goal with a classy assist.
Pedri has forced his way into the team and become a regular under Koeman since joining from Las Palmas in the summer despite a lack of top-level experience.
The youngster showed a great understanding and connection with Messi throughout the match, leaving Koeman to praise the midfielder for his performance.
Pedri is a very good player when he plays more centrally, between the lines and his connection with Leo and the others was very good. He is playing well, working hard and he is also important to us when he doesn’t have the ball, he looks very comfortable.
Pedri has now featured in all 14 of Barcelona’s La Liga matches this season, starting eight times and already looks a key member of the starting XI.
Indeed the connection between Pedri and Messi hinted at an exciting relationship between the two players which offers real optimism for the future after a slow start to the 2020-21 campaign.
Barca now have a week off before their final La Liga game of 2020. The Catalan giants host Eibar on December 29 at the Camp Nou.