months ago, Barcelona were dealt their greatest humiliation in Champions League
history, losing 8-2 to a rampant Bayern Munich to crash out of the Europe like never before. Adding insult to injury was their most expensive signing
of all time – Philippe Coutinho, on loan with the Bavarians after underwhelming
at the Nou Camp – scoring two goals and providing an assist for the eventual
reeling from the loss of their greatest icon and player in Lionel Messi after
yet another controversial behind-the-scenes management fiasco, Barca roll up
their sleeves to take on an ominous Bayern side at home in the Group E opener
on Tuesday. But, there may be a silver lining in the cloud of gloom surrounding
the Blaugrana in recent times after
Memphis Depay has been an instant hit at Barca since his free transfer from
Lyon, having been involved in four league goals so far and digging his side out
of difficult situations in tough games. His link-up play with those around
him is par-excellence, and he is also comfortable playing as a free-roaming attacker in the final third.
have lifted spirits both among his teammates and the fans. Depay is also coming
off the back of a successful international break, bagging five goals in two
games for the Netherlands in World Cup qualifications.
Koeman is likely to go for a 3-5-2 formation, something that worked well for
him in patches last season. And while Depay will be one guaranteed starter and
the team’s primary attacking threat, there are doubts over the rest of the
Barca have a
slew of first-choice players out injured for this crucial game. Ansu Fati,
Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Aguero will all not be available. Martin Braithwaite is
another who has joined the long-term injury list, with new arrival Luuk de Jong
most likely to partner Depay up front.
will the driving force in midfield, which will also boast the technical prowess
and ball-retention abilities of Frenkie de Jong and captain Sergio Busquests
respectively. Together they should make for a much more well-rounded midfield
than the one that was overrun in Lisbon a year ago.
and Oscar Mingueza are expected to play as wingbacks, with the back three manned
by Gerard Pique, Ronald Araujo and Clement Lenglet. Marc Andre ter Stegen,
another guaranteed starter, will look to banish his ghosts from the 8-2 loss.
Barca also have
something they did not in Lisbon on August 14, 2020, raucous Culers in the stands. The conditions
seem just about right for Barca to exact revenge.
But Bayern are still among
the strongest teams in the world, spearheaded by Polish striker Robert Lewandowski,
who has already scored 10 goals for club and country so far. The Bundesliga
champions have scored 24 goals in their last 4 matches in all competitions – an indication that the
threat does not get any bigger.
In a recent
interview, Koeman said “Thanks to me, this club has a future.” Now is the time for him to prove it.