La Liga: Ronald Koeman On The Brink As Barcelona Face Antoine Griezmann And Atletico Madrid

Ronald Koeman

Even if Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid on Saturday, Ronald Koeman’s rebirth is unlikely, but Antoine Griezmann will believe his own revival is just getting started. Only the schedule now favours Koeman, with the international break coming up next week necessitating a change of coach for Barcelona after their trip to the Wanda Metropolitano. The 3-0 loss to Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday dropped Koeman’s squad to the bottom of Group E, putting them in danger of missing out on the knockout stages.

Source: AFP

They are now sixth in La Liga, although their position might be improved given that they are only five points behind champions Real Madrid and have a game in hand.

Few, on the other hand, appear willing to give Koeman time to redeem himself after a dismal start to the season marked by poor results and even worse performances.

Koeman’s public appearances have added fuel to the fire, with a recent feud with club president Joan Laporta adding to the feeling that his time at Camp Nou is coming to an end.

Due to a two-match suspension, Koeman will not be on the bench for what may be his final game in command on Saturday, and his greatest chance of keeping his job is if Laporta fails to find a replacement.

Laporta told Koeman in the summer that he would need two weeks to locate a replacement, but none was found, or at least convinced that this Barcelona is now a club worth joining.

The names at the top of Laporta’s shortlist are Xavi Hernandez, Roberto Martinez, and Andrea Pirlo.

It remains to be seen whether a potential move will motivate or deflate Barcelona’s players, however Koeman’s lack of support has been noticeable this week.

Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, and Frenkie de Jong were all given the chance to back Koeman, but only De Jong came close, saying “no” when asked if dismissing him would make a difference.

Despite attempts to emphasise the club’s financial disaster, a string of summer sales, and many injuries as reasons for lowering expectations, Koeman’s constant appeals for spectators to be “realistic” have gone more unnoticed.

Griezmann was one of the players let go, his two-year boomerang from Atletico to Barcelona and back to Atletico one of the clearest examples of Camp Nou’s rash, short-term thinking.

Atleti has reaped the financial benefits of the back-and-forth, with the club set to pocket 80 million euros after winning La Liga while the Frenchman was abroad.

Griezmann, on the other hand, has battled to reintegrate with his former club, with a poor run of form only halted by a spectacular goal against AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, resulting in a 2-1 victory.

Diego Simeone appeared to be losing patience after Griezmann failed to score, assist, or even have a shot on target in his first five games, playing Angel Correa opposite Suarez at the San Siro.

Griezmann came on in the 61st minute and scored in the 83rd, volleying in a fantastic goal from Renan Lodi’s cross, and the hope is that he can now find a place in the line-up of the defending champions with confidence.

After a slip-up last week against Alaves, who had lost all five of their previous matches, Atletico is only two points ahead of Barcelona.

Real Madrid are the early favourites, but there are questions after their 2-1 Champions League setback at home to Sheriff Tiraspol on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Madrid travels to Espanyol, while Real Sociedad, who are in second place, will try to build on their strong start with a win at Getafe. Sevilla, ranked third, will visit Granada, ranked seventeenth.

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