Sunday, November 28

The dark danger of ‘Da luz’ stalks Barça in the Champions League

The visit to Benfica on the second day contains the need to score against a direct rival for the classification and the opportunity to endorse the good feelings expressed against Levante, with Koeman under the magnifying glass of Laporta.

Da Luz and Benfica. Nothing good awakens in the culé the name of the Lisbon stadium where the Portuguese team plays, neither of pleasant evocation.

The light went out to Barça 13 months ago with the infamous 2-8 with Bayern Munich, the worst defeat in its history and that unleashed the bestial consequences of such a humiliating result: the dismissal of the coach (Quique Setién), the captain’s desire to escape (Lionel Messi) and the definitive condemnation of the president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who left a minute before being expelled by the motion of censure. Benfica is the rival that separated Barça from its first European Cup 60 years ago (on May 31, 1961), in the first duel between the two and the only one lost by the Catalans in the Bern Wankdorf (the previous cursed stadium of the culés).

Koeman downplays the duel: “It’s impossible for it to be decisive”

History. The present is this:

With the incorporations of Pedri and Sergi Roberto, who were injured, and that of Frenkie de Jong, sanctioned in the League, Barça travels reinforced. He travels also reinforced with the dose of joy and confidence that he generated the 3-0 over Levante and the accompaniment of the good game displayed that revalued the victory. Positive vibes very necessary for a crucial duel: between Barça, Benfica and Dinamo Kiev, the second qualifying place of group E is at stake.

The bottom of the group

For the moment, and as long as the results do not say otherwise, Bayern seems a rival superior to all. Barça proved it in their flesh on the opening day (0-3). Ronald Koeman’s eleven visits the Portuguese leader (seven wins in seven games) as bottom and forced to score points to prevent the outlook from getting too tense too soon.

Pedri, Frenkie and Roberto return to face Benfica, Portugal’s undefeated leader.

“It is the second game of six, it is impossible for it to be a decisive game,” says the coach about the real significance of the duel. There will still be 12 more points to be contested and any of the four participants would have options.

It is not a situation that Barça is used to, which in its best days had plenty of the last day, with the classification already sealed. Last year, without going any further. The defeat against Juventus (0-3) it led to the ridicule and punishment of playing the eighth away from home. PSG cocked the nails of the coffin with a 1-4 already in the first leg of the Camp Nou.

It will not be decisive for the team but maybe it will be for Koeman. The coach walks on the wire, swaying for the results and the game, unstable on the very fine wire that President Joan Laporta has filed, who scans the market to have a replacement ready when the Wembley legend is pushed into the void. The proximity of Laporta, who spoke with Koeman on his return to Cádiz and yesterday, on the flight to Lisbon, is more scrutinizing than reassuring.

Be realistic, according to Koeman

In the midst of the general enthusiasm for the Barça that beat Levante, Koeman maintained the quiet and contained attitude of the coach who is still not optimistic about the future. His opinion on the level of the squad has not changed. The visit to Benfica has the double component of the drama due to the qualification in the Champions League and the revalidation of the emerging eleven that was showcased on Sunday.

“You have to be realistic. Today, with the changes we are making with the team, it is difficult to keep up with very important teams in Europe,” he commented in Let’s go.

“Ansu to the national team? He has been out for 10 months, he has barely trained with us for a couple of weeks and has only played 15 minutes”

Ronald Koeman / Barça Coach

The round day

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Despite the exciting feelings that the team issued on Sunday. Despite “the round day” »that Barça experienced with” the victory, the good game and the return of Ansu Fati, who also scored the third goal. ” The young footballer trained normally on Tuesday. The knee has responded, although he was exhausted by the intense Sunday day with his extraordinary comeback, said Koeman, waiting to revive the “strong” atmosphere of the stadium that he experienced when he coached Benfica (2005-06). Then, fell to Frank Rijkaard’s Barça (0-0 in Lisbon, 2-0 in Barcelona), on the way to the final in Paris.

Could he be called Fati by the Spanish team? Koeman did not want to get wet, remembering that he is not a coach (he was from the Netherlands). Nor interfere in the plans of Luis Enrique, who already did a favor to Barça by not summoning Pedri at the beginning of the month due to the exhaustion of the canary after chaining two seasons with the Eurocup and the Tokyo Games. However, Koeman recalled that Fati “has been away for ten months, has only trained with us for only a couple of weeks and has only played 15 minutes”.

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