Ronald Koeman offered a pretty cryptic response when asked if Antoine Griezmann would start for Barcelona in Saturday’s Clasico clash with Real Madrid at the Camp Nou.
The Frenchman was left out of the team that played Ferencvaros in the Champions League on Tuesday. Barcelona ran out 5-1 winners in their opening group game with Griezmann watching on from the stands.
Koeman gave very little away about his team selection was asked if Griezmann would return for the visit of Zinedine Zidane’s side in his pre-match press conference, as reported by Sport.
Griezmann has options to play tomorrow. But it’s not good to speak about his role in every single game because there are more players and the team is the important thing. He’s an important player and we want everyone at their best. The team is the most important and we have to plan the game to get the best result possible.
Griezmann has started all four of Barcelona’s La Liga games so far this season but has been taken off in each one and is yet to manage a full 90 minutes in the league for the Catalan giants in 2020-21.
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Koeman to Trust in Youth?
Koeman replaced Griezmann with 20-year-old Francisco Trincao on Tuesday and could turn to the youngster again on Saturday. The forward is one of several exciting young attackers in the squad.
Ansu Fati and Pedri, who are both still only 17, are in Koeman’s 23-man squad, while 23-year-old Ousmane Dembele is another player who could potentially replace Griezmann out wide on the right.
Koeman also explained that he would not hesitate to play his youngsters against Real Madrid if he felt it was the right call.
For me, the age of a player is not important, the important thing is performances I have no problem playing young players. To gain experience, you have to play games. I think about winning games, not a player’s age.
Griezmann has not managed a single goal or assist for Barcelona yet this season which means he is not guaranteed a place in the starting XI. Yet it would still be a brave decision from Koeman to play one of his inexperienced starlets in such a high-profile match.
Doubts Over Alba
Koeman must also decide whether to hand Jordi Alba a start. The left-back has been out with a hamstring injury but is back in the squad and will be hoping to make his return.
The Barcelona boss refused to say if Alba would get the nod against Los Blancos and said he’d wait to see how he was feeling ahead of the game, as reported by AS.
The player always has the last word. He knows if he is fit to play or not. I also have to speak to the medical team so we are going to wait. I see everything very positively but you have to wait if there is a reaction [in training]. Yes or no. If not, he has a good chance of playing.
Barcelona may be unwilling to risk Alba, particularly with a trip to Juventus up next on Wednesday in the Champions League. If the left-back does miss out then 19-year-old Sergino Dest is expected to continue in defense.