Ronald Koeman wants his Barcelona aspect to win massive when it visits Atlético Madrid to have a shot at saving his job.
That’s, if he makes it to Saturday.
Two embarrassing losses to begin the Champions League have left the Dutch coach below excessive strain earlier than a visit to the capital to face the Spanish league’s titleholder.
Shedding 3-0 to Bayern Munich, a European juggernaut, two weeks in the past was humbling. However to comply with that up with one other 3-0 loss at Benfica — a group it had not misplaced to since 1961 — on Wednesday could also be an excessive amount of for the membership’s management to take.
Koeman spoke after the match in Lisbon like a person who knew his time at Camp Nou may very well be counted in days, if not hours.
“As for my future, I can’t say something as a result of I don’t know what the membership thinks about it,” Koeman mentioned. “It isn’t in my fingers. We are going to see . . . on the finish, the responsible social gathering is the coach.”
Membership president Joan Laporta and Koeman have been at odds since Laporta returned to run the membership final March. Laporta went so far as to search for one other coach within the offseason earlier than lastly selecting holding Koeman for the second 12 months of his contract.
Laporta and Koeman have shared the necessity to persuade Barcelona’s followers to decrease expectations because the membership was saddled with over a billion euros in debt and unable to pay Lionel Messi’s wages. However the group has hit new lows that even with the exit of the almighty Messi are troublesome to take.
A sixth-place standing within the Spanish league has nearly grow to be respectable for the previous champions in comparison with its dismal exhibiting within the Champions League.
Barcelona is in final place of Group E and liable to not making the knockout rounds for the primary time in 20 years. Most worryingly, a Barcelona group that prides itself on at all times delivering attacking soccer has not even generated a shot on track in 180 minutes.
By no means shy to level out his group’s shortcomings, nor spare his gamers from what he considers simply criticism, Koeman unfold a few of the blame.
“Everybody is aware of the issue of Barcelona at the moment,” he mentioned. “The group shouldn’t be the identical because it was for years. We noticed that in at the moment’s sport. It’s crystal clear. We have now misplaced gamers who made the distinction . . . I’m not saying that we now have to simply accept it or that I’ve no duty, however in at the moment’s sport we should always have gotten extra from our gamers.”
Koeman’s techniques in opposition to Benfica, nevertheless, have been additionally questionable. As a substitute of changing Gerard Pique with one other defender when he picked up an early yellow card, Koeman shifted Frenkie de Jong into his backline. Barcelona suffered much more attempting to arrange its forwards with out De Jong in a inventive position.
When requested if he thought the group wanted a brand new supervisor, De Jong responded with a curt “No.”
“You’ll be able to solely get out of this example if you happen to keep united and work collectively,” the Netherlands midfielder mentioned.
Atlético was having its personal troubles earlier than Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suárez — each former Barcelona gamers the membership couldn’t afford to pay — scored late to battle again 2-1 at AC Milan on Tuesday.
The match at Wanda Metropolitano will come earlier than a weeklong worldwide break, providing Barcelona a window to make a training change if desired.
Former midfielder Xavi Hernández has lengthy been tagged as a future Barcelona coach, whereas Spanish media speculates that Belgium supervisor Roberto Martínez and former Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo may very well be within the operating.
Laporta mentioned throughout his presentation this summer time that sports activities director Jordi Cruyff is also used as a “wild card in an emergency.”
Past the group’s quick struggles, Barcelona was dealt a tougher long-term blow by the Spanish league hours earlier than it misplaced at Benfica.
Barcelona’s new wage cap has been slashed to 97 million euros ($113 million), about 285 million euros ($334 million) lower than a 12 months in the past and 7 instances smaller than that of Actual Madrid, as a consequence of losses it incurred by the poor administration of Laporta’s predecessors and the financial affect of the pandemic.
So Koeman or not, the glory days of Barcelona received’t doubtless be coming again quickly.