Ronald Koeman’s criticisms of Barcelona squad justified in Cadiz draw

It’s safe to say that Ronald Koeman isn’t a happy bunny these days.

The Dutchman is on the brink of losing his job after a miserable start to the season and, in the build-up to Thursday’s meeting with Cadiz, tensions began to boil over in the media.

After watching his side put in 54 crosses and snatch a draw against Granada, Koeman defended his tactics by questioning how anyone could expect his current squad to match the heights of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team of eight years ago.

During the goalless draw with Cadiz, we saw exactly what Koeman was complaining about.

This Barcelona squad just isn’t that good. They’re decent, but asking them to mirror perhaps the best club side we’ve ever seen is just ridiculous, and Koeman is justifiably growing tired of being challenged on that.

They’re decent defensively, but it’s going forward where Barcelona find all their problems.

Sergino Dest is a young full-back being asked to copy Dani Alves, one of the greatest ever. Sergio Busquets is an ageing midfielder who is now physically unable of making the forward runs that he has always been scared of making. Frenkie de Jong and young Gavi are not Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

In attack, teenager Yusuf Demir had a rough outing, but the experienced Philippe Coutinho did not do much better in his place, and let’s not even talk about the walking anchor that is Luuk de Jong, the least tiki-taka suitable striker the game has ever seen.

It’s all just so slow. Nobody was moving the ball quickly and there was absolutely nobody on the pitch capable of taking the game by the scruff of the neck to make something happen. There were no risk-takers.

Koeman wants them to pass the ball quickly. He put faith in playmaker Gavi, introduced Sergi Roberto for a much-needed injection of energy and brought on both Nico and Riqui Puig because he wasn’t happy with his midfield. He knows things need to change, but how can he do anything with this poor squad and the cripplingly high standards?

For what it’s worth, Koeman is not blameless in this mess. After all, he decided to start De Jong instead of sticking with Memphis Depay in a central role. The Dutch striker slowed everything down far too much, and to make matters worse, Koeman didn’t even notice until after Frenkie de Jong was sent off midway through the second half. It’s possible he didn’t even realise and just got lucky with his substitution.

He’s got his problems, but Koeman is not the sole root of Barcelona’s struggles. There aren’t many managers on the planet who could do much better at a club who seem determined to live in the past and ignore the present.

It’s almost as if years of poor transfers, financial mismanagement and foolish decision-making is actually a bad thing. Who’d have guessed?

Barcelona absolutely need a change in the dugout. Koeman is not doing anything positive there anymore, but anyone who thinks a new manager can come in and make life rosy again needs to think twice.

Cadiz 0-0 Barcelona: Player ratings as Frenkie de Jong & Ronald Koeman see red

Barcelona’s disappointing stat to the season continued on Thursday as they were made to hang on to secure a goalless draw with Cadiz.

Cadiz began energetically but Barcelona quickly started dominating possession, although they struggled to cut the home side open. There were a lot of passes but that was about it. The first half was not fun at all.

Cadiz midfielder Fali picked up a nasty looking knee injury, but the only highlight of the first 45 was a Cadiz supporter holding up a banner asking Lionel Messi for his shirt.

Thankfully, things changed after the break. Alvaro Negredo came close with a shot from range before Memphis Depay missed a sitter just a few minutes into the half, and both sides continued to look like they actually wanted to have some fun for once.

Any momentum Barcelona thought they had built came to an abrupt end shortly after the hour mark as Frenkie de Jong was dismissed for two yellow cards.

Clearly smelling blood, Cadiz did all they could to push for a winner and had a handful of great chances, but none could find a way through the impressive Ter Stegen.

Barcelona ended the game without a manager as Ronald Koeman was sent to the stands for contest protests of the referee’s decision, putting a sour end to what was a pretty underwhelming contest.

Ronald AraujoRonald Araujo

Araujo had a good game / CRISTINA QUICLER/Getty Images

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 7/10 – Did absolutely nothing in the first half but was clearly switched on enough to make a top save from Negredo shortly after the break. Made another excellent save from Salvi Sanchez late on.

Oscar Mingueza (RB) – 4/10 – Looked really uncomfortable on the right. Regularly blasted by Koeman for not getting forward enough and was visibly frustrating his boss.

Gerard Pique (CB) – 6/10 – Had a fun aerial battle with Negredo. Didn’t win all of them but usually did enough to disrupt the Cadiz man.

Ronald Araujo (CB) – 7/10 – Really led by example. Could be heard barking orders to his team-mates and made sure to throw himself around to win the ball back.

Sergino Dest (LB) – 5/10 – Involved so much in attack but did pretty much everything wrong. Skied an early chance and continued to fluff crosses. Fair play for getting into good positions but did nothing with that.

Frenkie De Jong, Tomas AlarconFrenkie De Jong, Tomas Alarcon

De Jong had a forgettable game / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Sergio Busquets (DM) – 5/10 – Far too safe with the ball. Offered one or two long passes but far too many went sideways. Slowed the game down too much.

Gavi (CM) – 7/10 – Constantly wanted the ball and was not afraid to try and dictate possession. Some dangerous crosses but struggled with his side’s lack of moment in attack.

Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 4/10 – Underwhelming in the first half and dismissed shortly after the hour mark for two yellow cards, the second of which was a little harsh. Still wasn’t the worst De Jong.

Luuk De JongLuuk De Jong

De Jong was a hindrance / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Yusuf Demir (RW) – 4/10 – Had Koeman screaming at his lack of movement. Offered absolutely nothing in the first half and was hauled off at half-time.

Luuk de Jong (ST) – 2/10 – Doesn’t fit this Barcelona team at all. Made life far too easy for Cadiz’s centre-backs by just standing still and not offering any movement whatsoever. Hooked after the red card.

Memphis Depay (LW) – 5/10 – Clearly frustrated by his side’s lack of oomph but dropped too deep to try and make things happen. Fluffed a sitter early in the second half.

Sergi Roberto (CM) – 7/10 – Probably wasn’t actually a 7/10 but deserves credit for being the catalyst for Barcelona’s brief improvement. Made this game worth watching for all of 15 minutes.

Philippe Coutinho (LM) – 5/10 – Offered very little after replacing De Jong.

Nico (CM) – 6/10 – Didn’t get a lot of time to impress but did fine.

Riqui Puig (CM) – 5/10 – Nearly gave away a goal with his first touch.

Gregg Berhalter praises Ricardo Pepi for ‘incredible’ USMNT debut

US men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter spoke candidly about the team’s experience during the September World Cup qualifiers and praised newcomer Ricardo Pepi for his astonishing debut, admitting Honduras is “a notoriously difficult place to play”.

FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi made his senior team debut in the 4-1 victory against Honduras on September 8 after committing to the USMNT over the Mexican national team days prior. He scored a goal and added an assist to inspire a comeback from the American side.

Berhalter revealed he was impressed with Pepi for his efforts as the South American country is a tough opponent.

“I think it’s incredible,” Berhalter said of the teenager’s performance. “Think about 18 years old, makes his debut in Honduras, a notoriously difficult place to play, ends up having a goal and assist in playing 90 minutes. I mean, that was incredible.”

Pepi confirmed that Berhalter mentioned the possibility of debuting against Honduras on the plane to allow the player to mentality prepare himself.

“It’s just to show a player you believe in him is the most important thing,” Berhalter reflected. “Anything’s possible; if you’re in camp, you can play, you can start. You know, you’re not in camp to be a placeholder. And it’s just giving the guys the confidence that yeah, you’re here to contribute.

“For Pepi, and for a lot of guys, you’re playing not because I like you, you know you’re playing because you’re good enough and you can do it.”

The USMNT managed to turn around their World Cup qualifiers campaign with the victory against Honduras, previously facing an early exit. During the September window the American side managed two draws and one win.

Berhalter explained he made the tactical switch to a 4-3-3 for the last match in hopes of getting a better result and sending a different message.

“You have a plan for what type of message you want to deliver, but to me, the first thing is, the first thing I said was it’s about competing. We’re gonna have to raise our level of competing in this game to get back into it. Changing the formation, I thought, was going to give them the confidence that ok, we’re gonna be able to get this done here, and then it’s about I think also remaining positive and sticking by them.”

The USMNT face Panama, Costa Rica and Jamaica in the next round of qualifiers.

Leicester vs Burnley: TV channel, live stream, team news & prediction

Two sides who have both endured tough starts to the new season, Leicester and Burnley will be looking to make things right when they square off on Saturday.

Leicester have been surprisingly disappointing so far this year, winning two and losing three of their Premier League games, and they come into this one on the back of a poor 2-1 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Two wins is two more than Burnley have managed. Sean Dyche’s men have just one point to their name and have lost their last two games, the latest of which was a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal.

Here’s everything you need to know about the game.

When is it being played? Saturday 25 September, 15:00 (BST)
Where is it being played? King Power Stadium
TV channel? Final Score (BBC – UK), Soccer Saturday (Sky Sports- UK), Peacock Premium (US)
Highlights? Sky Sports YouTube channel, Match of the Day (BBC – UK)
Referee? Chris Kavanagh
VAR? Jonathan Moss

Ayoze PerezAyoze Perez

Perez is available again / James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

One positive for Leicester is their short list of injuries. Long-term absentees James Justin and Wesley Fofana are the only two players expected to miss this one.

Ayoze Perez is eligible for selection after serving his three-game ban and he could start in midfield, having done so in the 2-2 draw with Napoli in the Europa League earlier this month.

Josh BrownhillJosh Brownhill

Brownhill could return / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Josh Brownhill is likely to be available after a dead leg, but this game will come too soon for injured trio Dale Stephens, Kevin Long and Connor Roberts. The latter two have stepped up their involvement in behind-closed-doors action and may not be too far away.

Tactically, expect Dyche to turn to Jay Rodriguez in attack as a reward for the 32-year-old’s four-goal haul against Rochdale.

Leicester: Schmeichel; Castagne, Soyuncu, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Ndidi, Tielemans; Daka, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy.

Burnley: Pope; Lowton, Mee, Tarkowski, Taylor; Cornet, Westwood, Brownhill, McNeil; Wood, Rodriguez.

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The past three meetings between these two sides have yielded one win for each side and, most recently, a draw. They played out a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor in March, with Kelechi Iheanacho’s screamer cancelling out an early opener from Matej Vydra.

Leicester won the other meeting last season, picking up a 4-2 win in the second week of the campaign, eight months after a 2-1 Burnley win.

Burnley have a poor record at the King Power and are without a win in their last ten attempts in Leicester – a run that dates back to November 2007.

Ademola LookmanAdemola Lookman

Leicester will fancy themselves / Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Both of these teams could do with a win, but neither are playing well enough to make you feel comfortable about making a prediction.

Leicester should be winning this one, but they haven’t been anywhere near their best this season and have looked oddly vulnerable.

Fortunately, Burnley are in even worse form, and Leicester will be expecting a victory from this one.

Prediction: Leicester 2-1 Burnley

Cristiano Ronaldo asked to re-join Sporting CP by mother

Cristiano Ronaldo’s mother has urged the Manchester United forward to return to Sporting CP before he calls time on his career.

The 36-year-old sealed a different return this summer, leaving Juventus in favour of a move back to Old Trafford. Predictably, he’s been an instant hit, bagging four goals in his first three games back in red.

His mother, Dolores, has confessed that she cried tears of joy when Ronaldo scored on his second debut for United, but she stressed to Sporting’s YouTube channel that she hopes her son isn’t in England for much longer.

“Ronaldo has to come back (to Sporting), he’d be here for me,” she told ADN de Leao. “He likes watching Sporting’s games. I’ve already told him: ‘Son, before I die I want to see you return to Sporting’. ‘Let’s see…’, he said.

“Today, the number seven shirt belongs to [Bruno] Tabata…for now. When Ronaldo comes, it will be his! Ronaldo, coming here, will make up for it with the sales of shirts. In Manchester it was crazy.”

At 36, you might think that Ronaldo’s career is coming to a close, but the Portugal international’s ridiculous physical fitness will likely help him keep going for years to come, so a return to Sporting when his United contract ends cannot be ruled out.

Ronaldo has signed on at Old Trafford for at least two years, with the club also holding the option to extend that by a further year.

Things could have been so different had United signed for cross-town rivals Manchester City, but Dolores insisted that she always knew links to Pep Guardiola’s side were purely fictional.

She said: “On the TV there was talk of Man City, but he said to me: ‘Mum, don’t worry about what they’re saying, because I’m going to United.”