Barcelona president Joan Laporta arrived in Madrid with an announcement that belied all the signals the club had given off since the defeat in Lisbon, and before then: Ronald Koeman will remain as head coach, he deserves our trust, he’s a true Barça legend… We’ll see whether that really lasts, or whether it’s simply down to the fact that there’s no money to replace him or that no-one wants to touch this job. Either way, Laporta’s words did have a beneficial effect on the team’s morale. Other than what they were wearing, they looked good when they came out at the Wanda Metropolitano (which, finally, was full to bursting). They moved fluidly and took good care of the ball in the opposition half; they looked assured.
Barcelona's defensive set-up picked apart
But they had no cutting edge. And in defence… They went man for man at the back, and picked a bad day to do it, because João Félix was on fire. He had no difficulty in beating his marker, and once that happened the visitors were opened up, Thomas Lemar and Luis Suárez then setting each other up for goals that arose from moments of magic from João Félix. A bit of skill, a pass, another pass, and into the back of the net. Precise combinations helped by the disarray of a man-to-man Barça backline that fell to pieces when the first line of defence was breached. Koeman said post-match they had worked on what to do if that happened, but looking at Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets, it's clear someone dozed off in class.
It's going to be a long season for the Blaugrana...
It can’t be easy for Koeman to lead his squad from such a position of weakness. What a contrast with that of his Atlético Madrid counterpart, Diego Simeone, who is valued by his club, has his players completely in his thrall and gets an immediate response when he whips up his home crowd. We’ll see if Laporta really has changed his attitude towards Koeman; the Dutchman seems to believe so and even thanked him for it, but the damage is already done. Barça, whose next two opponents are Valencia and Real Madrid, are in for a long, hard season. Atlético, on the other hand, look upon the campaign ahead with optimism, united behind a leader who last night reigned once again at the Wanda, as the fans revelled in a joyful reunion.