Barça vs. Athletic: Koeman's Copa final XI depends on Pique's fitness

Barça vs. Athletic: Koeman's Copa final XI depends on Pique's fitness

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Koeman says Pique's ready to play but a late decision will be made on his inclusion

The international break didn't do Barcelona any good. Before it, Ronald Koeman had found stability and impressive performances through a system with three centre-backs. Barça made it difficult for Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and hammered Real Sociedad at Anoeta. But as nothing is easy this season, after the break, Sergio Gonzalez revealed the weak points of Barça's system for Zinedine Zidane to exploit them. Against Valladolid, Koeman reverted to 4-3-3 in time to save the three points, but against Madrid the change came too late.

That's all led to doubts about how Koeman will line up in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Club on Saturday. The clues (changing Sergiño Dest at half-time in the Clasico) insinuate a four-man defence with Oscar Mingueza at right-back and Jordi Alba on the left. The sensation is that Mingueza is a safer bet defensively than Dest, but it removes him from the middle of defence, where Clement Lenglet seems to have his place assured but he's seeking a partner. The most logical would be Ronald Araujo because Gerard Pique's not played since March 3. But Koeman says he's ready to play in the final. If he's 100 percent, he will be in the side. If he doesn't play, it would be a bad sign because it would mean he's not ready for such a demanding game. Pique trained normally on Friday at La Cartuja in Seville. As did Araujo. If Pique does not start, Araujo will play.

Piqué se entrenó sin problemas sobre el césped de La Cartuja


That means Frenkie de Jong can return to midfield. Sergio Busquets will be the deepest of the three, with Pedri to the left of him and De Jong to the right, a position he's showed he can get forward from. Despite his effectiveness in the middle of a back three, he shines more in midfield, above all in a 4-3-3, as seen in the second half of the Clasico. The three, supported by the mobility of Lionel Messi, will be tasked with dominating the game against Marcelino's Athletic, who always play 4-4-2. Messi, as always, will be the key.

Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann, whose role in the Copa del Rey and the Supercopa (he scored two goals in the final defeat to Athletic) will also come back into the side. The French forward did not start the Clasico but came on in the second half when Koeman changed the shape. Everything indicates he will return to the XI in the cup final. His absence would mean Barça are playing with a back three once again. Dembele will complete the front line with Messi and Griezmann and will be responsible for destabilising the Basque side's backline.


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