Koeman Springs Surprise With Barcelona Team To Face Alaves

Ronald Koeman


Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has sprung a big surprise with his team to face Alaves in La Liga on Saturday at the Camp Nou.

The Dutch coach has named 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba in his starting XI, handing the youngster his first ever start in La Liga. The teenager made his senior debut earlier this season in the Copa del Rey win over Cornella.

Moriba has also been a regular in first-team training this season, and Koeman spoke about his potential in January at a news conference ahead of his team’s Copa del Rey clash against Rayo Vallecano.

Regarding the players who may have a future here, it’s good sometimes for them to play and train with the first team and see their level, see if they can compete. Ilaix is one of those players, who despite his youth – he just turned 18, it’s important that he gets a feel for things. It helps him to put him in the squad, it becomes a norm for him, shows he’s been doing good work. He still has a long way to go but he’s a player who has a future here.

Midfielder Riqui Puig also starts the match as Koeman makes changes to his starting XI with one eye clearly on Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain.

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De Jong in Defense?

Injuries to key defenders Ronald Araujo, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, and Sergino Dest means Koeman looks set to field an unfamiliar backline against Alaves.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong will partner Clement Lenglet at center-back with Oscar Mingueza continuing at right-back. Junior Firpo comes in for Jordi Alba on the left of the defense.

Moriba joins Sergio Busquets and Puig in midfield, while Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann are joined by Francisco Trincao in attack. It’s a first La Liga start of the season for Trincao who opened his account for the club last time out in La Liga in the 3-2 win over Real Betis.

Highlights Real Betis vs FC Barcelona (2-3)Messi and Trincao give FC Barcelona a great comeback victory over Real Betis #RealBetisBarça Matchday 22 LaLiga Santander 2020/2021 Suscríbete al canal oficial de LaLiga Santander en HD goo.gl/Cp0tC Subscribe to the Official Channel of LaLiga in High Definition goo.gl/Cp0tC LaLiga Santander on YouTube: goo.gl/Cp0tC LaCopa on YouTube: bit.ly/1P4ZriP LaLiga SmartBank on YouTube: bit.ly/1OvSXbi Facebook:…2021-02-07T22:47:46Z

The changes in attack mean that Ousmane Dembele is given a rest ahead of Tuesday’s crunch tie against the French champions at the Camp Nou.

Messi Equals Xavi Record

Koeman’s decision to start Messi means the captain equals Barcelona legend Xavi’s record of appearances for the Catalan giants in La Liga. The Argentine will make his 505th outing for Barca against Alaves.

Messi will be hoping to crown the occasion with a goal. The 33-year-old could not find the target in midweek against Sevilla but came off the bench to score his 17th goal of the 2020-21 campaign against Betis last time out in La Liga.

Barca head into the match as big favorites after going on a run of 11 games unbeaten in La Liga. Meanwhile, Alaves start the game in 16th place in the table and just two points off the relegation zone.

The hosts will be keen to win after midweek disappointment in the Copa del Rey, going down 2-0 at Sevilla in the first-leg of their semi-final tie. Koeman will also be keen for a good performance from his side to boost morale ahead of the visit from PSG.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men warmed up for their trip to Barcelona on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Nice in Ligue 1. Goals from Julian Draxler and Moise Kean sealed the victory for the French champions at the Parc des Princes.

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