Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona side piled on the pressure for Andrea Pirlo, as his Juventus team were beaten 2-0 in the second Champions League matchday of the season.
Koeman’s Barcelona Ride Luck as Three Morata Goals Ruled Out for Offside
Defeat Puts Pressure on Pirlo as Juventus Struggles Continue
Appointing former club heroes as managers despite a lack of experience or achievements seems to be the fashionable thing to do these days.
Barcelona’s Ronald Koeman and Juventus’ Andrea Pirlo share a lot in common. Both were lauded as being among the best in their position during their playing days, and both achieved almost everything there was to achieve in the game during those years, too.
In the present day, both have returned to manage the clubs where they arguably had the most success.
Currently, it is Andrea Pirlo who is struggling to make his mark. His Juventus side were beaten in matchday two of this season’s Champions League, by a Barcelona team undergoing a radical transition.
Pirlo could argue that his side were unlucky – firstly, they were without Cristiano Ronaldo due to coronavirus. As Barcelona’s great rivals Real Madrid have found, replacing the mercurial Portuguese is no easy task.
Then there was the match itself,. Three times Alvaro Morata had the ball in the back of the net, three times he was ruled to be offside.
Even Barcelona’s opening goal – an Ousmane Dembele effort which looped over Wojciech Szczesny – had an element of bad luck from a Juventus viewpoint.
Excuses aside, however, these are worrying times for the new Juventus boss.
Pirlo’s Days Already Numbered After Poor Start
Domestically, Pirlo’s side have struggled. Two wins in the last five leaves Juventus in 5th, four points off top spot.
For most teams, this would be a respectable start to the season. Juventus, however, are no ordinary team. Success is a formality.
Fans of The Old Lady would have been looking for a response after a barely-deserved 1-1 draw with Hellas Verona on the weekend.
They didn’t get it.
The likes of Paulo Dybala were barely involved in the game. Too often players didn’t seem confident in Pirlo’s system—a 3-5-2–nor in their own abilities.
That being said, Juventus did make inroads into Barcelona’s defences, particularly down the flanks.
This, though, can be attributed more to Barcelona’s own issues, rather than Juve’s attacking flair.
Morata’s disallowed goals were continuous turning points in the game. Yet Juventus didn’t outplay Barcelona. Indeed, both sides were shadows of their former glories.
Victory Gives Koeman’s Barcelona Breathing Space after El Clasico Loss
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona side have also struggled domestically this season. The 2-0 win over Juventus will come as a relief for Koeman – as his side sit 12th in La Liga.
The match also came immediately after a chastening 3-1 defeat to arch-rivals Real Madrid, who are also experiencing a transitional period.
Make no mistake, Barcelona rode their luck – on a different night, Morata would have bagged a hat-trick.
However, what makes football so exhilarating are the fine margins. Koeman will be grateful that on this particular night, the thrills were very much in his favour.
Messi was, once again, Barcelona’s main creative outlet. His importance to the side continues to be laid bare. Meanwhile, players like Ousmane Dembele continue to frustrate.
Dembele’s goal was fortunate, but too often his decision-making let him down. In the 35th minute, for example, the Frenchman took too long to shoot, before picking the wrong pass to Antoine Griezmann when Pedri was free.
Should Messi choose to leave – either in January or next summer – whoever is in charge of Barcelona at that time will face one of the toughest rebuilding projects of any football club.
Koeman and Pirlo Both Face Uncertain Future and Tainted Legacies
Koeman is attempting to prepare the club for that eventuality. He has placed his faith in youth in order to rejuvenate Barca.
The likes of Pedri and Ansu Fati are talented, but raw. The former showed his naivety by giving the ball away outside his own area in the second half – almost resulting in a penalty for Juventus.
What plagues both Koeman and Pirlo is the need for immediate results. Mistakes like Pedri’s will happen when youth products are thrust into the first-team – but fans won’t accept that as an excuse.
It’s clear from the match that both sides have a lot of work to do. Winning the Champions League this season is certainly not in the question, based off the performances on show.
Both managers are also running the risk of tainting their legacies at their respective clubs.
Despite winning the match, there wasn’t enough on display to suggest Koeman’s Barcelona have rounded the corner.
Similarly, despite three disallowed goals, Pirlo’s Juventus are continually uninspiring.
A nervous few weeks lies ahead for the former heroes – with the very real possibility of them becoming villains in the eyes of the club faithful.