As Barcelona stand on the precipice of a UEFA Champions League knockout stage berth for the first time in three seasons, expectations and excitement are running high.
The Catalans face Shakhtar Donetsk in the reverse fixture to be played in Hamburg, and a win guarantees their passage into the round of 16, and massively boosts their hopes of securing top spot in group H.
This fixture could also prove valuable to provide some rest to key squad members ahead of the international break and to keep them fresh for La Liga given how the race for top spot is hotting up.
Here’s how Barça could line up for matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League group stage tomorrow.
Rotations at the back
Marc Andre ter Stegen will likely retain his place in goal as Xavi may look to field a centre-back pairing of Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen to shield the German.
The former, Barcelona’s hero against Real Sociedad, held down the fort at the weekend before scoring a winning goal at the death, while the latter will be fresh off his rest at San Sebastian.
On either side, Xavi will likely continue with Joao Cancelo for his incredible work rate on both ends of the pitch, while giving the nod to Marcos Alonso as he often does on the European stage.
Fermin back in midfield
After his exceptional display against the Ukrainians last time out, Fermin Lopez could make his way back into the starting lineup to try and keep up his incredible momentum.
Complementing him, will be the ever-energetic Gavi and the experience of Ilkay Gundogan, whose wonderful pass set up Araujo’s winner against Sociedad at the weekend.
Gundogan seems to be slowly finding his creative boots, and will look to build on his assist while Gavi will also look to keep up his incredible form, arguably as Barcelona’s best player this season.
Ferran leads the line
After being brought on for Robert Lewandowski around the half-hour mark against La Real, Ferran Torres showed immediate impetus going forward and could be handed a start again, after his immaculate performance against Shakhtar at home.
Joao Felix could start on the left and look to complement the Shark by occupying half spaces and liberating the Spaniard in trademark fashion to carve out goalscoring opportunities.
On the right, Raphinha could be given his first start since his return from injury to try and unlock Shakhtar from the wing alongside Cancelo.
Felix · Ferran · Raphinha
Fermin · Gundogan · Gavi
Cancelo · Araujo · Christensen · Cancelo
The most obvious change will be to freshen things up in the midfield in the second half, bringing on Pedri to give him more minutes on his way to full match fitness.
He could not only come on in place of Ilkay Gundogan to rest the veteran, but also control the tempo of the game as he does so exceptionally well and hopefully see Barcelona close out a result.
Lamine Yamal will likely come on for Raphinha to freshen things up in attack, also relieving Raphinha.
Given the Brazilian’s usual workrate, it would be wise to not play him for the full 90 minutes to avoid any injury relapses.
Alejandro Balde could come on for Marcos Alonso to mitigate the latter’s lack of mobility and Jules Kounde could also rack up some minutes as he aims to return to full fitness as well.