Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman might have received the public backing of Joan Laporta but the strength of the president’s support will be tested as the struggling La Liga giant enters a crucial week starting with a visit to Valencia on Saturday.
After Valencia, Barca faces Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League on Wednesday before hosting Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season four days later.
Koeman might feel buoyed by the backing of his president, but he will also know the reprieve given to him by Laporta before the international break comes with conditions attached.
Barcelona cannot afford further stumbles against Valencia and Madrid, given it sits ninth in La Liga after seven games played, already five points behind Madrid at the top of the table, albeit having a game in hand.
And another slip against Dynamo in midweek could spell the end of its hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Champions League after defeats by Bayern Munich and Benfica left Barca rooted to the bottom of Group E.
Many believed these matches would be the first for a new coach, after a run of one victory in six games left Koeman looking beleaguered, isolated and out of touch with his president and players.
In the press conference before Barcelona's last game against Atletico Madrid, Koeman offered only a little resistance to questions presuming his departure was imminent.
"I have eyes and ears and I know that things are being leaked. They are probably true, but nobody has told me," Koeman said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Instead, Laporta emerged on the morning of the Atletico game to say Koeman's job was safe and that he would continue regardless of the result at the Wanda Metropolitano, where a few hours later Barca limped to a 2-0 defeat.
"Previously there was no clarity," said Koeman after the game.
"It is very important for the confidence of the coach and for the players too, that they know the coach is still here.
"We are Barca, we have to win games, this pressure is also normal. It exists for any coach but especially at Barca.
"But the president has spoken well. He has made his decision and everything is perfect."
Laporta was reportedly considering Xavi Hernandez, Roberto Martinez and Andrea Pirlo as Koeman's successors but he has, at least for now, called off the search.
Perhaps none were keen to take over a club still suffering the enormous effects of a financial meltdown.
Koeman, though, assured Laporta the team will improve when injured players return, with Ousmane Dembele and Sergio Aguero both back in training Monday.
Barca can expect Aguero to make the most of any chances that fall his way and help his team return to playing the flowing football its fans demand rather than the direct style it has been attempting this season.
Aguero meanwhile, has his own point to prove after struggling with fitness problems for most of the last 12 months, in which he had to endure eight setbacks including two knee injuries and a long period out due to the coronavirus.
Aguero joined Barca on a free transfer in the close-season after a trophy-laden decade with Manchester City in which he became the fourth leading scorer in Premier League history and struck 260 times to become the club's all-time top scorer.
But the excitement of his arrival was quickly overshadowed by Lionel Messi's shock departure in August, which was soon followed by Aguero’s calf muscle injury.
Still one of the most clinical finishers around, Aguero's cold-blooded efficiency in the area could certainly benefit Koeman's side, which is creating remarkably few chances this season.
"The majority of players want to wear this shirt, whether Barca is doing well or badly. I arrived with the expectation of playing with Leo and that a big team would be assembled, which was the club's aim," Reuters quoted Aguero as telling newspaper El Pais on Thursday.
"But you can only be a starter when you are playing well and helping the team. That's what I'm thinking about, helping the team with a goal every time I play regardless of the changes the team has undergone, among them Leo's departure."
Earlier this week, Catalonia authorities announced Barcelona would be allowed to fill Nou Camp to 100% capacity after lifting coronavirus restrictions. Valencia is eighth, above Barca on goal difference.
Elsewhere in La Liga, Real Sociedad has the chance to go three points clear at the top when it hosts Mallorca on Saturday. Leader Real Madrid and second-placed Atletico are not playing after their matches were postponed due to La Liga's rift with FIFA over South America's World Cup qualifiers.
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