Ronald Koeman on brink at Barcelona after Benfica thrashing

Barca beaten 3-0 for second successive Champions League match with president Joan Laporta set to hold inquest

Ronald Koeman admitted he doesn't know if he has the support of the Barcelona board after a 3-0 defeat at Benfica in the Champions League.

Barca were subjected to yet another European humiliation that puts their hopes of reaching the knockout stage in doubt and left the Dutch coach on the brink.

Club president Joan Laporta will hold a meeting on Thursday morning, according to reports in Spain, in which it will be decided whether Koeman will stay in charge for Saturday's huge La Liga game against Atletico Madrid.

That fact that a change is even being considered before one of the most important games of the season shows how little confidence in Koeman there is left.

"I feel like I have the support of the players," said the 58-year-old. Asked if he felt supported by the club, Koeman said: "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."

When Koeman, who played for Barca in 1989-1995, was appointed by Laporta's predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu in August 2020 the club beamed "welcome home!" and called him "a legend".

But after an encouraging first season in which Barcelona won the Copa del Rey and in the end were disappointed not to win the league, Koeman's homecoming has quickly turned sour.

He has never enjoyed the backing of Laporta, who tried to find a replacement in the summer but was unable to find a suitable successor or more likely persuade them to join.

For a while it was a marriage of convenience, but the relationship has grown bitter in recent weeks, with Koeman's demands for support and attempts to lower expectations received with increasing irritation at the club.

"What I don't like is an attitude of acceptance, a certain defeatism," Laporta said last week.

Barcelona's dire financial situation would hamper any coach as a string of senior players have left and inferior ones been brought in. Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann were allowed to depart, replaced by Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong.

Koeman has emphasised the point repeatedly that this team is not the Barcelona of old and expectations have to be adjusted accordingly.

"We have changed many things and we are missing some soldiers," said Koeman. "I'm tired of always repeating the same thing. We have lost the players who made the difference. For me it is clearer than water."

Wednesday night's drubbing will not have helped Koeman's cause. The Catalan club followed their 3-0 opening loss against Bayern Munich with the same scoreline to leave them bottom of the group and in danger of missing the knockout stage for the first time since 2000-01.

“We are in a critical situation,” Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets said. “We have zero points after the first two rounds."

Darwin Nunez scored twice — his first three minutes into the match — and Rafa Silva added another goal at the Stadium of Light to help Benfica end a 60-year winless streak against Barcelona. It was its second victory in eight matches against the Catalan club.

Updated: October 28th 2021, 4:06 AM
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