Back in 2016, Unai Emery reportedly turned down the Everton job, which eventually went to Ronald Koeman. Koeman has somehow failed his way up the ladder to Barcelona since then, while Emery is in his third match at Villarreal, with a few trophies in France and nearly one another Europa marking his path from there to here.
It would have been hard to predict this managerial matchup in this place with these teams four years ago, but that is winding way of the world of football. Paco Alcacer will face his former team today, the first of twice in the next three weeks, and if he can find his way onto the scoresheet we have to like our chances. This is not Barcelona as they once were, and we have to have the fortitude to capitalize.
It’s great to see Albiol out on the pitch, and Estupinan steps in which should give us balance in wide areas. I feel optimistic, I think, which doesn’t always happen on an away day to Barcelona.
I expect a double pivot from Koeman, that’s his comfort zone. Neto in goal plays to our favor. What will be very interesting is how the attack plays out. I think Coutinho, Fati, Messi represents the three ‘attacking mids’ in a 4231, with Griezmann as a striker. The weird thing will be that Messi likes to drift inside, Griezmann likes to drop down, and Coutinho doesn’t drift out wide a ton so I think the middle of their attack may up being crowded and convoluted.