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Laliga: Koeman’s Barca begins a new era on Sunday

The Ronald Koeman era kicks off tomorrow night as Barcelona host Villarreal amid a tumultuous time at Camp Nou. Following the infamous Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich with an embarrassing 8-2 loss, the club sacked Quique Setien and battled to keep its talismanic captain, Argentine Lionel Messi. They will begin their 2020/21 La Liga campaign against Villarreal in what could be a difficult fixture on paper for the new manager for obvious reasons .

Former Arsenal’s manager Unai Emery arrived in the offseason at Villarreal , taking over for Javier Calleja and his side have collected four points from six possible after two MatchDay.

After a 1-1 opening day draw against newly-promoted Huesca, Villarreal claimed a MatchDay 2 victory against Eibar, 2-1.

Villarreal have started well and are just two points off of the top two clubs (Granada and Real Betis) in La Liga after Matchday 2. Based on the early season table, it is possible that La Liga could finish in a very unusual style.

Villarreal have not defeated Barcelona in over a decade. The 2007-08 season was the last time that the Yellow Submarine managed a victory against Barcelona. That win came at Camp Nou. Can Emery’s team win against Barcelona at Camp Nou and push toward the top of the table?

Villarreal are coming off of a 2-1 win at home against Eibar but it didn’t go as smoothly as the score line suggested.

Villarreal conceded a 50th -minute goal but came back with two strikes in the final 27 minutes of the game as Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer both found the back of the net.

The Yellow Submarine dominated much of the fixture posting 58% possession and tallying 14 shots with eight landing on target; though they did concede 12 shots to Eibar.

Emery’s team must play tighter in defence to prevent Barcelona from having so many shots at goal since they lost both matches against Villarreal last season. “We are preparing for this week’s match (against Barcelona) with the new coach and new players,” Nigeria’s Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze told NationSport. “I think we will do better at Camp Nou or even win; but is a difficult game also.”

The Blaugrana won 2-1 at Camp Nou with all three goals coming in the first half. Antoine Griezmann and the recently departed Arthur scored in the opening 15 minutes. Villarreal scored through Santi Cazorla in the 44th minute but that was as close as they got.

The reverse fixture ended 4-1 in favour of Barcelona. Pau Torres’ own goal was cancelled out by Moreno. Luis Suarez and Griezmann followed on to give Barcelona a 3-1 lead at halftime. Ansu Fati added a fourth goal with four minutes left on the clock.

Villarreal have obtained three draws over the course of the last 10 matches against Barcelona in La Liga. However, they have not won against the Blaugrana in over 10 years.

But the question remains ‘how will Koeman set out his Barcelona team?’

It is assured that Barcelona will play 4-3-3- as Koeman takes the team back to the Dutch and Johan Cruyff-inspired club. Barcelona left the Dutch influence behind with the arrival of Pep Guardiola and have been absent of that inspiration for over 10 years.

Koeman has so far proved a particularly flexible manager; his approach is determined by the qualities of the players at his disposal.

At Southampton he reportedly favoured a 4-3-3 formation that potentially evolved into a 4-2-3-1, depending on their opponents, and occasionally even experimented with a 3-4-1-2. His next position, at Everton, first involved a preference for both a 3-4-3 and a 3-5-2 – both systems featured wing-backs – and later a 4-3-3, with wide attackers that became a 4-2-3-1 in which the three supporting the lone striker remained in narrow positions.

It was with Holland that he worked with a calibre of player similar to that that he has inherited at Barca. He therefore mostly oversaw a more open and attacking 4-3-3, before relying on the use of three central defenders against the front threes of Portugal and Italy. More than any of the teams he has managed; the Netherlands demonstrated the attacking football principles that most resemble the traditions valued at Barca.

Miralem Pjanic is one of the big names to arrive in the offseason. He came over from Juventus in a separate transfer that sent Arthur to Turin. Barcelona sold midfielder Ivan Rakitic to Sevilla and leaving a the team that defeated Villarreal twice last term? It is likely to be the latter.

Barcelona outscored Villarreal 6-2 in 2019-20 over the course of two La Liga matches.

Griezmann scored two goals in two meetings with Villarreal last season. Lionel Messi may finally be coming around to Griezmann. Reports indicated the two were not friendly with each other last season. However, Messi needs Griezmann to be at his best as Barcelona defeated Elche for the Joan Gamper Trophy in preseason.

Griezmann got the decisive goal in the game thanks to a cutting pass from Messi.

The French World Cup winner’s first year at Camp Nou did not go well; scoring just nine La Liga goals, the fewest since Griezmann played for Real Sociedad. Even worse were his four assists.

It was Griezmann’s lowest assist total since 2014-15 and the forward averaged just 1.92 shots per 90 minutes in La Liga last term.

But LaLigaTV pundit Guillem Balagué has explained why the situation isn’t as bleak as previously portrayed for Barcelona – but has warned the Catalans that a slow start would crush any remaining optimism.

“Sometimes in times of crisis, the most adventurous decisions are made,” he told Four-Four-Two.

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