Ronald Koeman's big decision: Riqui Puig, Pjanic or Ilaix Moriba?

Pedri's a big loss but the Dutch coach has options to take his place

| sport

Ivan San Antonio

Pedri has become a key player in Ronald Koeman's side. The system doesn't matter. He's always in the XI. At 18, his performance levels are maong the best in La Liga. He's been the revelation of the season. Therefore, his absence will be a problem on Wednesday in the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg against Sevilla as Barcelona look to come back from 2-0 down. But Koeman has options to minimise the damage.

Riqui Puig

Riqui Puig has spent recent seasons playing in the role Pedri's played under Koeman most frequently. Both players have similar characteristics, too. Maybe Pedri is better defensively, but that's something Riqui has improved a lot since being promoted to the first team.

In terms of having the ball at their feet, Riqui's shown he's ready for the challenge. Koeman's seen as much when he's given him minutes. Although there haven't been many recently. His last appearance was the final 10 minutes against Cadiz. In the Copa del Rey, he's played more, featuring in all four games to date, although only playing five minutes against Sevilla.

His dynamism and, above all, directness could be key to opening up Sevilla at Camp Nou.

Miralem Pjanic

Miralem Pjanic has had a tougher season than expected. Koeman hasn't shown a lot of faith in the ex-Juventus midfielder, who's played as a pivot and an interior. In December, he complained. "I don't understant why I don't play more," he said.

Koeman said four days ago, after taking him off at half time against Elche, that "he has to improve his speed on the ball and his positioning."

Given that context, he seems unlikely to start against Sevilla, especially as he missed Saturday's game with a slight knock, although he as experience in his favour. So far this season, he's played 27 games in all competitions, 1,263 minutes in total and has not yet scored or set up a goal.

Ilaix Moriba

Ilaix Moriba came on at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday when Pedri got injured at 1-0. Koeman gave him 20 minutes and he showed he's ready for big challenges. He played well in Pedri's role. He didn't just offer rhythm, intensity and football, but also chipped in defensively.

Sevilla were surprised by his appearance. He linked with Messi for the second goal. But despite that, giving him responsibility from the start in such a demanding game could be risky. But Koeman must make that decision.

The fourth option

Koeman does have another option on the table. Antoine Griezmann is one of them. He could come in and play deeper than usual, or Messi could. There's also the possibility of a system change, with Griezmann, Trincao and even Braithwaite the players that could come into the side.




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