Koeman to Restore Key Duo to Barcelona Team for UCL Tie

Philippe Coutinho

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Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati are both expected to return to the Barcelona starting XI for Tuesday’s Champions League group-stage tie with Ferencvaros.

The duo dropped to the bench for Saturday’s defeat to Getafe in La Liga but both appeared as second-half substitutes at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

Yet manager Ronald Koeman is expected to rotate his team again for the visit of the Hungarian champions and will restore Coutinho and Fati to his starting line-up, according to Sport’s Sergi Capdevila.

There are likely to be more changes for the game too. Midfielder Miralem Pjanic is set to make his first Barcelona start at the expense of Sergio Busquets, while Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto could also drop out.

Capdevila reports Barca are likely to line up with Neto in goal and a backline of Sergino Dest, Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique, and Roberto. Dest could also play at right-back and replace Roberto with fit-again Junior Firpo coming into the team on the left.

Pjanic is expected to partner Frenkie de Jong in midfield, leaving an attack of Fati, Coutinho, Lionel Messi, Griezmann or Francisco Trincao.

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Koeman Happy with Messi’s Form

One player who looks set to continue in the team is captain Lionel Messi. The 33-year-old has played every minute of Barca’s campaign so far and also featured for Argentina over the international break.

Koeman spoke about his captain ahead of the match in his pre-match press conference and insisted he’s not worried by Messi’s form. The captain’s only Barca goal so far has come from the penalty spot in the 4-0 win over Villarreal.

“Maybe, at the moment, Messi’s performances could be better.  But he is happy, he is working hard and he wants to be the captain. I don’t have a single complaint. He has also had some bad luck. He hit the post [in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Getafe] and on another day that goes in.

“I don’t have any doubts about his performances and we’re going to see him [at his best] in the upcoming games, I’m sure.”

This would certainly be a good time for Messi to hit top form for Barcelona. The Catalan giants host Ferencvaros on Tuesday and then play Real Madrid in La Liga and Juventus in the Champions League.

Yet Barca can also look to Coutinho and Fati for attacking inspiration as the duo have both started the season well. The Brazilian has two goals and an assist for Barca, while Fati is the team’s top scorer with three goals so far in 2020-21.

READ NEXT: Koeman Defends Griezmann & Dembele, Talks UCL Hopes

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