Jules Koundé’s fatigue raises concerns for Barcelona

Jules Kounde / Getty Images
Jules Kounde / Getty Images

Jules Kounde has played every single minute in 2024.

Barcelona’s stumble in Bilbao once again paints LaLiga white. Real Madrid maintains an eight-point lead, so with 11 matches left, thinking about a comeback is being overly optimistic. Winning at San Mamés would have changed the scenery, but it didn’t happen, and now the focus is back on securing second place in the league and trying to go as far as possible in the Champions League. The match against Napoli at Montjuïc becomes a make-or-break situation for Xavi Hernández’s squad. Hence, it makes perfect sense for the Barça coach to conserve some of his most demanding players in recent months.

Had Barcelona done their job in Bilbao, they could have temporarily closed the gap to three points if they defeat Mallorca on Friday. That scenario would indeed put more pressure on Real Madrid. Therefore, it would be entirely logical to go all out against ‘Vasco’ Aguirre’s team on Friday. However, being eight points behind Real Madrid, it seems wiser to prioritize the tie against Napoli over the match against Mallorca. In this scenario according to Toni Juanmarti of SPORT, all eyes are on Jules Koundé. The Frenchman has had a grueling 2024 in terms of minutes and could start on the bench against the Balearic side. Íñigo will replace Araujo in the center of defense, while to cover for Koundé on the flank, the alternative would be to bring in Héctor Fort, either on the right or left, with Cancelo on the right. Koundé has played 15 consecutive matches, logging every minute. So far this year, he hasn’t missed a second of play. His numbers are staggering: 1,380 minutes out of 1,380 possible.

This means that in the last two months, Jules has played practically as much as in the previous five months combined. The defender has already reached 2,900 minutes this season, with 48% of those in January, February, and the recent clash at San Mamés. Koundé had been going through a significant performance slump in recent months, although he has recently shown some improvement. Although he is still not as solid as expected, it seems that the former Sevilla player is gradually leaving behind the disastrous form he displayed in recent times. In Bilbao, he was in good physical shape, and although Berenguer caused him problems in the second half, he fought and at least didn’t make any major errors.