After two consecutive draws vs Espanyol and Napoli, respectively, Barcelona will hope to get back to winning ways when they travel to the Mestalla to take on Valencia. A win here would go a long way for the club, especially now that Atletico Madrid dropped points against Levante.
Ahead of the game, there has been a lot of chatter about the starting lineup, especially given the multiple problems Barça face in defence. Ronald Araujo picked up an injury in the first half vs Espanyol, while Gerard Pique was sent off in the second.
Moreover, Dani Alves is still suspended from his red card against Atletico Madrid in the 4-2 win at Camp Nou. Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet are unfit as well, which means Xavi will have to come up with something different tomorrow.
The starting XI
Without several key defenders, we expect Xavi to take the route of the 3-5-2 for once. Oscar Mingueza and Eric Garcia will both likely start, but neither of them exceptional defenders. As such, Mika Marmol might get the nod in defence, especially for his ability to carry the ball and even play wide.
While there is little doubt that Marc-Andre ter Stegen will continue in goal, out wide, Xavi will probably look to deploy Adama Traore as the right-wingback. Jordi Alba could be used in a similar capacity on the left side.
After being rested on the weekend, captain Sergio Busquets will, in all likelihood, come in at defensive midfield. With a three-man defence behind him, the Spaniard is a menace for the opposition on the ball.
He will likely be partnered by the usual suspects – Pedri and Frenkie de Jong. The latter came off in the second half for Busi and will probably get the start over Nico and Gavi.
The attack is where things get interesting, especially without Memphis Depay, who could have been perfect in that second-striker role. Therefore, Ferran Torres is expected to run the channels alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The two combined well vs Napoli, and their pace could be the key to open Valencia’s low block.
Predicted Barça XI: ter Stegen; Mingueza, Garcia, Marmol; Adama, Pedri, Busquets, de Jong, Alba; Torres, Aubameyang
In our version of the lineup, Gavi and Nico Gonzalez start on the bench but will almost definitely be called up on in either situation. The La Masia midfielders have received regular playing time under Xavi, and it will continue tomorrow.
Luuk de Jong has been a superb outlet off the bench and will provide a focal point in attack, especially if the team is chasing a goal.
Sergino Dest‘s prominence has increased recently as well, and there is every reason to believe that he might get minutes late in the game, especially if the manager wants to tinker with the formation.