Barcelona fell to a heavy three-goal defeat at Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday night with the pressure on under-fire boss Ronald Koeman higher than ever
The crisis at Barcelona has deepened after Ronald Koeman’s side slumped to a three-goal defeat at Benfica in the Champions League.
It was a night that got off to the worst possible start for Barca as they fell behind in the second minute; Darwin Nunez bettering Eric Garcia before firing the hosts into a lead.
Rafa Silva added a second midway through the first half for the hosts before Nunez settled the game as a contest with his penalty 10 minutes from time.
It is a result which has condemned Barca to successive opening defeats in the competition – having lost by a three-goal margin at home to Bayern Munich on the opening matchday – for the first time in their history.
Here are five things we noticed from the game.
Barca formation chaos
Barca boss Koeman abandoned the side’s usual 4-3-3 formation – or a variation thereof – to instead play a 3-5-2 system.
The Blaugrana’s players looked uncomfortable in the system throughout the game and never settled into any rhythm.
Defender Gerard Pique – who was already on a yellow card and was walking a red card tightrope – was subbed off before the break, replaced by midfielder Gavi.
Yet that only saw Frenkie de Jong move back into defence to retain five defenders – a system that Koeman has not deployed in La Liga so far this campaign.
Yet he has struggled badly for form at his new side with Wednesday night’s performance a nadir.
Garcia was culpable for Benfica’s equaliser, showing Nunez inside before the striker fired home a fearsome effort.
The central defender looked off the pace and lacking in physicality, with his poor personal night capped off in the closing minutes with a second yellow card.
There will be fresh question marks over his place in the side going forward after another worrying display.
Out of Luuk
The arrival of Sevilla striker Luuk de Jong on a season-long loan deal at Barca raised plenty of eyebrows and he put in another unconvincing performance in Lisbon.
The Dutch striker missed two guilt-edged chances during the game – firing wide when unmarked inside the area in the first half and then a second half missed (albeit he was offside) from one yard when he chested against the post, when it looked easier to score.
Barca are without Sergio Agüero and Ousmane Dembele through injury but de Jong is not convincing the doubters he is an adequate replacement.
Koeman on the brink
AFP via Getty Images)
Ronald Koeman’s position at the Camp Nou looks more vulnerable than ever.
The club are actively searching for a replacement for the Dutchman but have been unable to afford to sack him – a move that could cost them upwards of £10million.
The fact that their place in the Champions League beyond the group stage is now in jeopardy coupled with their domestic struggles, means that a decision on Koeman may come sooner rather than later.
Hope in youth
It was a sore night for Barcelona that brings more questions than answers, but there was a small glimmer of hope for the Catalan club.
Despite Garcia’s struggles on the night, he is aged just 20 while his fellow defenders Ronald Araujo and Sergino Dest are aged 22 and 20 respectively.
Talented midfielders Pedri, Nico Gonzalez and Gavi are aged between 17 and 19, while the teenage prodigy Ansu Fati has returned from injury and was a late substitute.