FC Barcelona got their campaign underway with the first preseason of the 2021/2022 season against Gimnastic Tarragona.
Due to the Euro 2020 and Copa America 2021, coupled with other senior players undergoing recovery, Koeman was left with no choice than to field a whole lot of youngsters in the match.
The first team players included in the match day squad are Sergino Dest, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
Barca got things started with numerous attempts to breach their opponents defense but to no avail. All efforts were either rebuffed or totally decimated by Gimnastic who is playing Barca for the second consecutive season in a friendly.
However, things unarguably changed for Barca after a Gimnastic Tarragona player got a red card for a hard tackle on Riqui Puig. Pjanic stepped up and took the free kick but it was saved by the goalkeeper.
It was Barcelona B player, Rey Manaj who got the Catalans the first relief of the match on the hour mark with a golazo. The striker made a swift turn inside the box, lost his marker a few yards and fired a thunderous shot into the back of the net.
That was not all for Manaj on the night though. The Albanian born player was also at the right place and on time to score a deft pass by simply using his chest to redirect the ball and bury it in the back of the net for his second goal of the night.
But, Manaj wasn’t finished with scoring just yet. After a Barca player was fouled inside the Gimnastic Tarragona box, Manaj stepped up and converted the penalty to land his first hattrick for the senior side on his debut. Barca completed the game with a 4-0 win in the second half and the goal came from Collado.
The Blaugrana’s dominated possession in the friendly match expectedly but were obviously rusty. New signing, Demir was also on song all through the match, showing glimpses of brightness but admittedly needs more work and better decision making. Overall, most players fielded put up a good display, making their case for an upgrade to the first team.
Koeman will take a lot of positives from the match though, especially with Joan Laporta stressing his preference for 4-3-3 formation.
Barca’s next Preseason match will be against Girona.