Balde, Raphinha start in a 4-3-3: How Barcelona could lineup against Real Madrid
For the fourth(!) time this season, Barcelona and Real Madrid will lock horns tomorrow night at the Camp Nou in a game that could go a long way in determining La Liga’s title race.
Xavi highlighted the importance of this fixture, but made sure to suggest that the final result might not end up having an impact on the eventual victors of the league.
“If we win tomorrow, it’ll be a very important victory. It certainly will not decide the league, though,” he said in his pre-game press conference.
As it stands, Barça are sitting nine points clear of their arch-rivals at the top, and will have the chance to make that 12 should they get all three points at home.
Ahead of the game, it is important to take part in the ritual of predicting Barcelona’s starting lineup. Before that, though, a reminder on the team news.
Pedri and Ousmane Dembele are the only first-team members still out of action, and will not be available on the bench at the Camp Nou. The rest of the squad is fit and running, and should be especially motivated for this game after having the entire week off.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen not only has a claim at being Barcelona’s best player of the season, the best goalkeeper in the league, but also probably as the best player in Spain.
The German shot-stopper has kept an incredible 19 clean sheets in 25 games, and will undoubtedly start in goal tomorrow.
While ter Stegen has been at the heart of their defensive rebuild, a lot of credit goes to the new-look back-four. At the heart of it are Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde, who will likely start as the right-back and as the centre-back respectively.
Andreas Christensen will be partnering Kounde at the heart of the defence, while Alejandro Balde gets the responsibility to provide width from the left side.
With Pedri injured, Frenkie de Jong will have he most responsibility in the midfield trident for Barcelona tomorrow. The Dutchman is expected to start on the left side, while Franck Kessie takes his place on the right.
Sergio Busquets‘ recent defensive performances have not gone under the radar, but the Spaniard will have a ton of work tomorrow against a Madrid side looking to attack more than usual.
In a rather hybrid role, we will see Gavi take on the left-wing yet again. The Spaniard will continue to invert in so as to give Balde freedom on the flank and create overloads in the centre of the park.
The creative responsibilities will lie with Raphinha on the right-wing, who scored the winner for Barcelona in the last two games.
The 26-year-old has nine goals and nine assists in all competitions this season and could be in the same bracket as the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, and Antoine Griezmann should he reach double digits in both categories. Hopefully tomorrow?
Finally, in far from his best form, Robert Lewandowski will spearhead the attack as the striker. No better time to hit the pitch running again than in El Clasico.
Gavi · Lewandowski · Raphinha
de Jong · Busquets · Kessie
Balde · Christensen · Araujo · Araujo
Barcelona will have the option of brining on Ansu Fati and/or Ferran Torres should they need more offensive reinforcement on the flanks.
Alternatively, Marcos Alonso might be brought on to add defensive depth the team. Sergi Roberto, too, could be an option in midfield should Barça need fresh legs.
Not to forget Jordi Alba, whose ability to open up low blocks has been vital for Barcelona all season.