LaLiga English

Koeman under pressure against relegation-possibles Levante

Dropping a further 3 points against Cádiz last week, befuddled Ronald Koeman and a hapless Barcelona currently sit 9th in the La Liga table. Their next opponent, Levante, is tied for last place with Osasuna and Huesca, all on 11 points. Yet, this match is all about the Blaugrana having to muster up all they’ve got left not to lose against even a team battling hard to avoid relegation. Such is the harsh reality of the situation for Barcelona today.

Cádiz certainly couldn’t be denied their victorious result last week but at this juncture, it is an uncertainty if Levante is a team that Ronald Koeman has the confidence about overcoming with the dismal performances of his team this period in the La Liga. The Barca invincibility now seems like a fast-fading myth of the past. Defensively, the Valencian side are willing to play for a draw, as they have done in four of their last five matches.

Koeman would no doubt be making history if he fails to get the much-needed result against Levante – history of the wrong kind, that is. Barcelona have won 18 out of 18 matches at the Camp Nou against them. Let’s see if Levante can, like Cádiz did, pull off a surprise win over the once indomitable Blaugrana titans.

Koeman’s growing record of dismal results are even now already becoming historic in its own right. His four wins, two draws, and four losses is the worst start for a Barcelona manager in his first 10 La Liga matches since Rinus Michels in 1971 (two wins, three draws, five losses). , To his credit, Michels did turn things around in future seasons, but Koeman may not be accorded the same tolerance from a new upcoming board or from Cules.

As Francesc spoke about on the latest edition of The Barcelona Podcast, the backlash for Barcelona managers tends to happen in Catalonia like an avalanche in the Alps. All that’s needed are a few rumblings from the local papers and any manager not delivering the goods comes instantly under heavy fire from fans and the media. Some would argue that Koeman’s goose is already being roasted in the Barca oven, and a loss against lowly-fancied Levante would take skeptical questions about his performance and turn them into declarations of confirmed failure to deliver.

Koeman’s press conference yesterday was that of a manager gave the impression that the coach, who had been blustering with overhwelming confidence when he first burst in through the doors, has already begun to feel his temperature turning up beneath his seat – as did Quique Setien and Ernesto Valverde, despite the latter having done well during his tenure with the Barca leading the La Liga race when he vacated the hot seat. The Dutchman, clearly lacking the proven performance of the Spaniard, has had to take refuge behind any excuse of a temporary shelter he could find, and instead defiantly denied the recent news that players have fallen out of love with his 4-2-3-1 system.

All this is but vain posturing as there is nothing in the players’ current performances the Spanish league to indicate they are enjoying their football with appropriate fruits of success in their current campaign since he took over the reins.

For as supported as Koeman may feel by the squad, Messi and company don’t like losing. All Messi has known in his career is winning, and this recent run of form is the worst nightmare to any presidential candidate saddled with the unenviable task of convincing him to stay.

Against Levante, who will likely defend deep near their own net, Barcelona will need to create tons of chances. The issue has been the finishing, and getting some core goals from open play would go a long to help a few players find their form for the three La Liga games this week.