Barcelona players in one of their recent outings (Google photo)
By Valentine Amanze
Barcelona B coach, Sergi Barjuan, is set to manage the club at Camp Nou without Ronald Koeman in a league outing against Alaves on Saturday.
The interim manager will work to close the gap on La Liga’s top four and restore confidence ahead of a Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev.
Koeman’s sack was confirmed on Wednesday night following a 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano at Vallecas.
According to AFP, Xavi Hernandez is reportedly close to being appointed as Koeman’s replacement but the return of the club’s legendary midfielder is not expected to come before the weekend.
There should be a buzz of excitement nonetheless, with the prospect of Xavi coming back to the club he joined as an 11-year-old and left in 2015 enough to stir the players and fans.
Barjuan oversaw training on Thursday afternoon, when Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, also addressed the squad, explaining the decision to dimiss Koeman and emphasising the onus is now on them to spark a revival.
“We’re all in the same boat here,” Sergio Busquets said on Wednesday night. “It’s everyone’s fault. For good and bad, we’re a team and we have to show it on the pitch.”
Two wins in seven league games have left Barca languishing in ninth, six points adrift of Real Betis in fourth.
The increasingly real possibility of failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League was likely a key factor in Koeman’s removal.
Finishing in the top four will be the top priority for Koeman’s replacement but the other immediate objective will be to reach the Champions League knock-out stage this season, after consecutive 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica left the team on the brink of an early exit.
Beating Dynamo 1-0 last week has given Barca hope but they will need another victory in Kiev on Tuesday against the bottom team in Group B to have any realistic chance of overhauling Benfica.