Let’s begin with Lionel Messi. What’s been made of his form under another new coach this season?
Messi hasn’t been scoring much from open play and possibly is still adapting to a new role and new system. Perhaps all the upheaval with the transfer rumors has affected him, too. I don’t want to overstate it of course since he’s still Messi and still done work for the team. In the last match (a 5-2 win over Real Betis) he came on as a substitute and totally changed the game. In these matches versus Atlético, he’s often been decisive.
What have you thought about Ronald Koeman’s work in general?
It’s definitely a work in progress. Some days the team looks strong, then the next day they look weak. The defense hasn’t improved yet, buildup is frequently erratic too. I think the midfield is still kind of finding its feet and players like Messi and Antoine Griezmann are still trying to find their role. There are signs there, but it’s one of those things where you can have a team that shows promise but never takes the next step. At some point patience will run out, but right now there’s enough encouraging signs that I think he’ll get time to work it out.
Pedri’s transfer was very under-the-radar considering the upheaval elsewhere, but is he showing star potential already?
Anyone who watched Pedri last season knew he was a baller but even then we didn’t know he’d make his mark so soon. You never know how a youngster will progress, but certainly he’s had some amazing games for his age already.
After Bartomeu’s departure, where does the club go next with the elections and what the next president will inherit?
Sounds like the elections will happen in the next few months, although the virus presents some practical challenges. Victor Font and Joan Laporta are the most well-known candidates but I suspect we will have a robust debate with everyone involved at some point soon. The next president will inherit a mess, but it’s not unsolvable.
If you wanted one Atlético Madrid player to swap sides and join Barcelona, who would it be?
Tough one because of how different the systems are (as Griezmann is finding out). João Félix is the most tempting option, but Barça is relatively well-covered in his position. I don’t think Atlético defenders are the best suited for Barça, although I’d look at that too.
Maybe the answer is Koke, since Koeman wants players who do it all in midfield.
What will Barça have to do to win this match in Madrid?
To win, Barça must avoid costly mental errors in defense, first of all. Some of the work has been very sloppy lately with players making all sorts of poor decisions. Going back to Koeman, this should be his priority and if he can’t figure it out after a while, then it’s a failure on his part.
Up front, the team has firepower and it seems they don’t rely on Messi solely to make every play like they did under Quique Setién. But Atlético are famously hard to break down so obviously they have to find a way through, which isn’t easy.
Predict the result!
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