Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman is reportedly considering making key changes to his team for Saturday’s crucial Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao in Seville.
The Dutchman has reverted to a new system using three center-backs in recent weeks to good effect but could switch to a more traditional 4-3-3 against Athletic, according to Diario Sport’s Toni Juanmarti.
Koeman has been “considering this option all week” but has still not come to a firm conclusion. Barcelona started with a 3-5-2 formation in Saturday’s Clasico defeat to Real Madrid but improved in the second half when they changed to a 4-3-3.
The feeling is that the system using three center-backs helped to shake up Barca’s season and get the team back on track but there are downsides. Midfielders Frenkie de Jong and Pedri have had to sacrifice their attacking instincts, while Ousmane Dembele has played as a No. 9 rather than his preferred position out wide.
There will be plenty of focus on Koeman and his starting XI on Saturday as the Catalan giants aim to pick up their first silverware under the Dutchman. The 58-year-old has struggled in big games this season, losing to Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Atletico Madrid as well as tasting defeat to Athletic in the Spanish Super Cup final. Saturday’s game could therefore have a lasting impact on his long-term Barca future.
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Koeman Names Barcelona Squad
Koeman has already named his squad for the Copa del Rey final. The Dutchman has included the entire first-team squad in his travelling party apart from injured forward Philippe Coutinho. Ansu Fati and Neto are also both sidelined with injury but are included in the squad even though they will not be able to play.
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Defender Gerard Pique also remains a doubt as he continues to struggle with a knee issue. The center-back is still experiencing pain and will have injections ahead of the game in an attempt to be ready in time, according to Javier Miguel at AS.
If Pique is fit then he’s likely to go straight into the starting XI. The 34-year-old could partner Ronald Araujo or Clement Lenglet in central defense if Koeman reverts to a back four for the match.
A 4-3-3 formation means that Sergio Busquets, Pedri, and Frenkie de Jong are favorites to feature in midfield with Dembele and Antoine Griezmann featuring either side of captain Lionel Messi in the Barcelona attack.
Koeman also has decisions to make at right-back with Sergi Roberto back to full fitness and ready to rival Sergino Dest for a starting XI. Jordi Alba should continue on the left with first-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen continuing between the posts.
Barca to End Seville Jinx?
Barcelona are the Copa del Rey’s most successful team and have won the competition a record 30 times. However, the Catalans have a poor record when it comes to winning titles in Seville, according to Mundo Deportivo.
The club has not tasted victory in a cup final in the Spanish city since 1925. Barca has played three finals in Seville since then, losing against Steaua Bucharest in the European Cup final in 1986, Valencia in the Copa del Rey in 2019, and Athletic in the Spanish Super Cup back in January.
Koeman’s men will certainly be hoping they can put an end to their Seville hoodoo on Saturday and add another trophy to the collection. The teams have met three times already this season in all competitions with Barca winning home and away in La Liga.