Barcelona starts home stint

Associated PressUpdated: Thursday, October 14, 2021, 11:53 PM IST
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Ronald Koeman | AFP

Barcelona:Ronald Koeman got a reprieve. Now he needs to make it last.

A visit from Valencia on Sunday kicks off a three-game home stint that the Barcelona coach said must mark a turnaround for his beleaguered team.

After facing Valencia, Barcelona will host Dynamo Kyiv and Real Madrid within a week.

The run of games at Camp Nou comes after an international break that gave Koeman a chance to regroup following a tumultuous period for a team struggling to win without Lionel Messi.

Two weeks ago, Koeman's job was considered in serious jeopardy after Barcelona had lost both of its Champions League games by an identical 3-0 score. Barcelona headed to the Spanish capital to play Atlético Madrid amid widespread reports that the club leadership was scouting for a replacement for its coach.

However, instead of firing him, club president Joan Laporta ended days of silence by reaffirming Koeman as coach, asking fans to be patient as the club tries to repair its hard-hit finances that have made it difficult to retain its top stars.

The public backing of Koeman came hours before another painful loss: a 2-0 defeat at Atlético that left Barcelona with only three wins in seven Spanish league games this season.

Koeman has pleaded for more time so he can get back injured players to help an attack that is struggling to produce goals without Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Forwards Ousmane Dembelé, Martin Braithwaite and Sergio Agüero are all sidelined with injures. Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho have recently returned from long injury layoffs.

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