Supercopa de Espana: Barca edging in the direction of the sunshine after 12 months of darkness
And so, after two head coach sackings, a torrent of boardroom upheaval and probably the most mentioned switch request of all time, Barcelona return to the scene of the crime.
The scene when it comes to the match itself, after all. However even after swapping Saudi Arabia for Seville, the reminiscence of final season’s Supercopa de Espana semi-final will probably be sufficient to deliver many a Cule out in a chilly sweat.
Barca led 2-1 going into the ultimate 10 minutes of their encounter with Atletico Madrid at King Abdullah Sports activities Metropolis, solely to lose 3-2. Ernesto Valverde would by no means lead them once more.
To say Valverde’s sacking and its aftermath have been shoddily dealt with would go some strategy to redefining the notion of understatement.
Membership nice Xavi was courted earlier than deciding he would fairly lead his boyhood membership at a extra agreeable time, one with out mayhem spewing in every single place behind the scenes at Camp Nou.
Quique Setien took the reins and got here to look out of his depth lengthy earlier than the 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich. Regardless of it being a sport that induced shockwaves round world soccer, “8-2” nonetheless feels an totally preposterous factor to kind.
Sporting director Eric Abidal known as out the squad for a perceived lack of effort throughout Valverde’s last days, a considerably belated present of solidarity with a coach he unceremoniously bundled in the direction of the exit door.
— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) January 9, 2020
Lionel Messi took umbrage and an unseemly public spat was nonetheless festering by the point LaLiga resumed following the coronavirus shutdown. Barca surrendered the title to Actual Madrid earlier than their evening of disgrace in Lisbon.
Setien was gone and newly put in boss Ronald Koeman determined Luis Suarez ought to comply with him by way of the exit door, one thing that did nothing to enhance Messi’s temper as he sought to prise himself away from Barcelona earlier than being pressured to remain underneath contractual duress.
A 2-1 defeat to Cadiz on December 5 left Barca seventh in LaLiga with 14 factors from 10 video games, with Koeman’s dream job turning quickly right into a nightmare.
A listless 3-0 Champions League loss at residence to Juventus adopted, ceding prime spot of their group. However since then, Barcelona are unbeaten in eight LaLiga matches, profitable six, and Opta information suggests they may be in higher well being forward of Wednesday’s semi-final towards Actual Sociedad than right now final 12 months.
Creating extra underneath Koeman
In 24 video games underneath Koeman in all competitions, Barca have scored 53 and conceded 22, averaging 2.21 and 0.92 per sport respectively in all competitions.
Heading into the semi-final with Atletico, Valverde’s staff have been prime of LaLiga with 40 factors from 19 matches. That betters the 34 from 18 that Koeman’s males should lie third this time round, however it must be famous that leaders Atleti have 41 factors from simply 16 outings to date.
The numbers behind Valverde’s last half-season on the helm trace at comparative progress underneath Koeman.
When the previous Athletic Bilbao boss led the Blaugrana in the course of the interval in query, they averaged 2.32 objectives per sport with 58 in 25.
Nonetheless, that massively out-performed an anticipated objectives (xG) determine of 41.1, which means they have been getting out of jail a good bit thanks largely to a sure particular participant. Koeman’s Barca are according to an xG of 53.66 this season, with photographs per sport as much as 16.9 from 12.5 in the identical interval underneath Valverde.
Each males left their defences grateful for wasteful ending, with an xG towards of 30.37 for Valverde and 29.83 for Koeman.
Messi nonetheless the grasp, Pedri and Griezmann stepping up
Regardless of a sluggish begin to the season after his tried exit, Barcelona’s foremost man appears to be again up to the mark.
In 21 video games this time period Messi has 14 objectives, closing on the 15 from 19 in his last stint with Valverde as boss, when he massively out-performed an xG of 9.83.
His significance to Barca stays paramount, main the best way in probability creation (51) as he did within the first half of final season (47).
Suarez was subsequent on that record with 29 final time round. Though nobody has stuffed the breach of 14 objectives scored within the interval by a person now spearheading Atleti’s title cost, teenager Pedri has stepped as much as craft 29 alternatives for team-mates.
Frenkie de Jong has created 25 possibilities from midfield – up from 19. The usually maligned Antoine Griezmann has made the identical leap, regardless of being on the pitch for 396 fewer minutes in comparison with final season. Nonetheless, till he lifts significantly his purpose and help contributions from seven and 4 respectively, unflattering comparisons to Suarez and Neymar will stay.
There are quite a few shafts of sunshine permeating the gloom that descended upon Barcelona a 12 months in the past. Sufficient to justify the chaos of the interim interval? After all not, however there may be legs within the fragile Koeman-Messi axis but.
However, as Barca resist Sociedad and Actual Madrid put together to tackle Athletic Bilbao, it’s exhausting to flee who this week’s actual winner will probably be.
A medical 2-0 win over Sevilla on Tuesday put Atletico 4 factors clear at LaLiga’s summit with two video games in hand. Diego Simeone’s males can have loved the Barcelona demise they triggered; this time they get to place their toes up for eight days and luxuriate in their fellow heavyweights punching holes in each other.
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