The Barça coach had to pick between Araujo, Kounde and Christensen
He opted to leave the Danish centre-back out this time, for the following reasons...
It was not an easy task for Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández to pick a backline ahead of the Porto game. He had all his players available in defence, so he was forced to make some tough decisions.
Andreas Christensen was finally chosen to remain on the bench. Cancelo and Balde are non-negotiable as the two full-backs at the moment and Xavi opted for the Kounde-Araujo duo as his centre-back pairing.
Despite several injuries last season, Christensen was the revelation of the campaign. After arriving as a free agent, the Danish international made hardly any mistakes and quickly established himself as an undisputed starter. Impeccable on the ball, Andreas displaced Kounde, who moved to right-back. In the current season, despite some Achilles tendon problems, the centre-back has maintained his status... until the game at Do Dragao.
With Araujo now recovered, Xavi had a difficult decision to make, as Cancelo, Araujo, Kounde, Christensen and Balde are all regular starters. The choice was to leave Andreas on the bench. Why? For two reasons.
Champions League night n*2 ✅🔥 pic.twitter.com/WhHi8cO32O— Jules Kounde (@jkeey4) 4 de octubre de 2023
Christensen 'lost' on points
The first is a question of general fitness. Kounde has been doing well in the centre of defence, especially in recent weeks. The Frenchman has always asked to play at centre-back and is responding with great performances. For his part, Araujo is one of the captains and his power and ability to win duels makes him a unique guarantee.
The second reason is the type of game Xavi envisaged at Do Dragao. The coach wanted his team to settle in their opponents' half. In other words, he wanted them to defend far away from their own goal. That meant leaving a lot of space at the back, which meant he needed to be as explosive as possible when it came to defending the home side's transitions.
Kounde saved Barça
Coincidentally -- or rather, causally -- in the 53rd minute there was a move that could have changed the outcome of the game. Pepê headed straight at Ter Stegen in what looked like an easy one-on-one for the striker. Kounde started well behind the striker but caught him up and ultimately prevented the equaliser. It was a goal-worthy action.
Although Barça's game plan was not applied to perfection, Xavi did have surgical precision in prioritising his two most explosive players at the back. Araujo and Kounde are the ones who run the most and best at the back and in the aforementioned counter-attack it showed. Decisions that sometimes depend on small details can also end up earning the team points.
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