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Cubarsi, Felix start in a 4-3-3: How Barcelona could line up against Napoli

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Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona face their biggest match of the season tonight as they get set to take on Napoli in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Having failed to make it past the group stages in the competition in the last two seasons, the Catalans managed to enter the knockout stages but the minimum objective budgeted by the club is to reach the quarter-finals.

Ideally, Barcelona should have had a foot through the door into the next round after they dominated Napoli in the first leg but came back with just a 1-1 draw from Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Italy.

So, tonight’s match at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys is a must-win for Xavi Hernandez & co. and a defeat here could have consequences, such as the early parting of ways with the manager.

The challenge has been made harder by the fact that Barcelona will be without two of their best players, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, with injuries. The pair join Gavi, Alejandro Balde, and Ferran Torres on the sidelines.

With the game set to kick off later tonight, here’s how Xavi could set his team up against Francesco Calzona’s side.

Starters

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, coming on the back of his 400th appearance for Barcelona, will again guard the goal tonight, hoping to keep the likes of Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia out.

The German international will be shielded by the centre-back pairing of Ronald Araujo and Pau Cubarsi, who is likely to get the nod ahead of Inigo Martinez after his fine performance against Mallorca.

Cubarsi set for his Champions League debut. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Jules Kounde and Joao Cancelo are certain to start as the full-backs. The former will have his hands full against the threat of Kvaratskhelia.

The midfield department does not leave much room for manouevering for Xavi due to the injuries. The big decision for the manager is to choose whether he wants to go with a four-man midfield setup or play with three midfielders and three natural forwards.

Given the lack of resources in midfield, though, the latter setup is likely to be opted. As such, we should see a midfield trifecta of Andreas Christensen, Ilkay Gundogan, and Fermin Lopez start, with Sergi Roberto lacking in match fitness.

Moving up ahead, Joao Felix should get the nod on the left flank, for the winger has been in good nick in Champions League matches. Robert Lewandowski and Lamine Yamal are certain to occupy the remaining two attacking positions.

Barcelona Predicted Lineup: Ter Stegen, Kounde, Araujo, Cubarsi, Cancelo, Fermin, Christensen, Gundogan, Lamine, Lewandowski, Joao Felix.

Substitutes

Raphinha is expected to receive minutes from the bench, with the winger expected to be fit to play after an injury scare against Mallorca.

There could be a Champions League debut for young forward Vitor Roque while Marc Guiu might also be an option if things need to be changed in attack. Sergi Roberto could finally get some minutes after returning from injury a few weeks ago.

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