Higuain and Suarez's struggles are mirrored and other things learned from Barca's draw

Alex Rea 23/11/2017
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Barcelona advanced to the Champions League last 16 after clinching top spot in Group D following a 0-0 draw against Juventus in Turin.

Last season’s finalists Juve remain second in the group, a point ahead of third-place Sporting Lisbon, and can secure their qualification with victory at Olympiakos on December 5.

Here are three things learned from the Juventus Stadium.

RAKITIC NEEDS TO BE DROPPED

Pre-game Ivan Rakitic touchingly talked about giving up his World Cup spot for the heartbroken Gigi Buffon.

Barca fans would probably wish the same sentiment was shared for his midfield position with the Blaugrana because he was the target of yet more vilification.

Suffice to say a trend is appearing in which the Croatian has become a scapegoat but the agenda may have some justification.

If ever a sequence summed up his struggle it was in the second half when Andres Iniesta made a clever interception, laid a one-two with a backheel pass to Busquets who shifts away from the attention of Miralem Pjanic with a roulette only for Rakitic to misplace the back pass.

Everything from his touch, to his passing was way short of the standards expected at Barca and perhaps Ernesto Valverde would be wise to consider taking him out of the spotlight and giving him a rest.

Gigi Buffon shares joke with midfielder Ivan Rakitic

Gigi Buffon shares joke with midfielder Ivan Rakitic

HIGUAIN AND SUAREZ’S TWIN STRUGGLES

Two players way off top form and a duo who spent most of the clash looking for free-kicks rather than goals.

The parallels between Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain were all to obvious in Turin and the irritation they caused each set of fans was palpable.

Higuain looked utterly pedestrian with criticism predictably levelled at his lack of movement.

Likewise, Suarez having broken his duck at the weekend looked out of ideas at the point of Barca’s attack.

The closest he came to scoring was a deflected free-kick but that’s more than can be said of Higuain who mustered one shot and only five touches more than his goalkeeper Buffon.

And delve deeper, Suarez managed only 34 touches – the least of any Barca player from the starting XI – just two more than the Argentine.

Both struggled to make an impact and it’s very much been the narrative of their campaigns so far.

Luis Suarez does down injured during the draw with Juve

Luis Suarez does down injured during the draw with Juve

VALVERDE DOES WHAT HE WANTS

If one thing is clear from Valverde’s tactical and personnel decisions it’s that he will very much be his own man.

A pragmatic approach in Turin was summed up by the almost unthinkable decision to drop Messi for Paulinho.

The Brazilian operated as a false nine and if the decision to rest the Argentine genius left fans aghast then the formation deployed will have only added to their skepticism.

Traditionally, Barca have almost exclusively stuck to a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 but Valverde has used a variation of a 3-5-2 and against Juventus a 4-2-3-1.

Granted, they only needed a point for progression and it was achieved with relatively little fuss in the end but the system left Suarez dreadfully isolated and Barca short of ideas even if they retained defensive rigidity.

Valverde is clearly content to play for a draw in Europe for key games and given their unbeaten record is now 18 games with 13 clean sheets it’s hard to argue with his approach.

This is Valverde’s team and so far the results have been nothing short of impressive.

Ernesto Valverde looks on during the clash with Juve

Ernesto Valverde looks on during the clash with Juve

Most popular

Related Sections

Bosz is on the brink and message from Dortmund fans must be heard loud and clear

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
In trouble: Borussia Dortmund boss Peter Bosz

“Doesn’t matter what happened yesterday, doesn’t matter what happens today – on Saturday it counts.”

In typical fashion, the vocal Borussia Dortmund fans have left sinking head coach Peter Bosz in no doubt about the stakes for this latest instalment of the Revierderby versus Schalke.

Rather than concentrate on Tuesday’s meeting with Tottenham and the expected elimination from the Champions League’s group stages which followed after another loss, a fourth in six harrowing fixtures, this was the forthright message delivered to the Dutchman from the Sudtribune.

The banner said it all about a time of reducing expectations and rumours of an impending dismissal for the man poached from Ajax.

Saturday’s fight for Ruhr supremacy could provide both the cure to all ails, or an unforgivable stain on a tumultuous reign which began with such positivity.

In this winter of BVB’s discontent, it is easy to forget the immediacy of Bosz’s impact.

A counter-pressing style redolent of celebrated predecessors Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel appeared to make him the perfect fit as a five-point lead in the Bundesliga and dominant goal difference of +19 was recorded by September 30. Then the wheels, spectacularly, fell off for Bosz.

A rot catalysed by last month’s 3-2 home defeat to RB Leipzig has also included star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang going four games without a goal and being banned for persistent internal rule breaking, Germany defensive midfielder Julian Weigl suffer persistent – and critical – losses of concentration which belie his soaring reputation plus Switzerland goalkeeper Roman Burki continue to provide bloopers.

Dortmund are now fifth in the Bundesliga having led the charge at the start of the season

Dortmund are now fifth in the Bundesliga having led the charge at the start of the season

The squad’s brittle confidence was on show again in midweek. After they deservedly went in ahead at the break following a best performance since September, from the moment Harry Kane equalised in the 49th minute they appeared utterly helpless.

Throughout this time, Bosz has scrambled for a solution. An ideologue first remained welded to the Dutch principles of a high defensive line and constant possession, prior to failed attempts to play deeper against the likes of Bayern Munich and now Spurs.

These stabs only appear to have further confused players whose minds were already fried in the hothouse final months of Tuchel’s disintegrating two-year spell.

But should this precipitous drop even be a surprise? The Dutch principles of ‘totalvoetbal’ have suffered critical blows after the nation’s successive failures to make tournaments, with high-profile disciples such as Louis van Gaal and Ronald Koeman appearing badly out of step at United and Everton.

Ronald Koeman was sacked by Everton last month

Ronald Koeman was sacked by Everton last month

The Ajax stint also stands out in an otherwise-undistinguished coaching career spent scrambling around the Netherlands and Israel. Does he possess the reserves to come through this?

Worryingly for Bosz and BVB, they could not be playing Schalke at a worst time. Inspired by the brave decision to put 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco in charge, they have left Hamburg behind in the Bundesliga’s basketcase.

In contrast to their Ruhr rivals, an uncertain beginning has flourished into a run of four wins and one draw to put them second.

The prospect of blooming Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka let loose against them will strike fear into the hearts of even the most belligerent Dortmund fans.

With enthusiasm waning and doubts growing, Bosz surely cannot survive disappointing the Sudtribune again. He has to make this one ‘count’.

Most popular

Related Sections

Liverpool want January loan move for PSG star while Courtois is linked with Atletico

David Cooper 23/11/2017
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

The transfer window may not open again until January 1 2018 but that hasn’t put an end to plenty of speculation throughout Europe.

Here, we take a look at three big stories dominating the headlines on Thursday.

Will any of the following deals happen?

Let us know your thoughts.

Get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

JULIAN DRAXLER

Liverpool want to sign Julian Draxler on loan from PSG in January, according to L’Equipe.

The 24-year-old has been restricted to seven Ligue 1 starts this season with the arrivals of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe pushing him further out of the first-team picture and a move away could be on the cards.

RATING: 7/10

VERDICT

Jurgen Klopp is a known admirer having tried to sign Draxler before he signed for PSG. In a World Cup season a move for more first-team action would appeal although given the Reds’ wealth of options in attack you have to wonder where he fits into their starting XI.

Still, the 24-year-old has undoubted quality and will likely attract the attention of Liverpool’s Premier League rivals Arsenal should he become available so he won’t be short of options.

THIBAUT COURTOIS

Atletico Madrid are hoping they can bring back Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea if current No1 Jan Oblak departs next summer, according to AS.

Oblak has been linked with a move to Manchester United and should the goalkeeper merry-go-round see David De Gea leave for Real Madrid then Courtois could also be tempted in a return to Spain.

RATING: 5/10

VERDICT

Perhaps a perfect storm could be on the horizon with Courtois yet to sign an extension to a deal which expires in 2019 and Atletico at risk of losing Oblak.

Goalkeepers could dominate the headlines next summer with Man United’s De Gea a target for Real and Oblak linked to the Red Devils, but given Courtois’ importance to Chelsea and a lack of world-class alternatives on the market you would suspect he’s virtually unsellable.

Thibaut Courtois has been linked to a return to Atletico Madrid

Thibaut Courtois has been linked to a return to Atletico Madrid

MOUSSA DEMBELE 

Manchester United have held preliminary talks with Celtic as they explored the possibility of signing French striker Moussa Dembele last summer, according to L’Equipe.

The 21-year-old is one of the most in-demand young forwards in Europe and was reportedly set to move to Chelsea in the previous transfer window but for a late collapse on deadline day.

RATING: 5/10

VERDICT

After scoring against PSG it’s probably no surprise to see him linked with Europe’s big hitters once more and if United have already touched base with the Hoops then don’t be surprised if they reignite their interest in January.

It seems a matter of when, not if, he leaves the Scottish top flight and there will be a whole host of interested parties chasing his signature.

Dembele in action against PSG after Celtic were battered by the French giants

Dembele in action against PSG after Celtic were battered by the French giants

Most popular

Related Sections