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De Jong, Raphinha start in a 4-3-3: How Barcelona should line up against Paris Saint-Germain

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Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

Following a solid ten-day hiatus after their last game, Barcelona return to the field on Wednesday night to lock horns with PSG in the UEFA Champions League.

The quarterfinal tie sees the two European giants battle it out over 90 minutes at Parc des Princes to secure an advantage, while the second leg will be at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys later this month.

Barcelona head into the game in fine form, having won eight of their last eleven games and remaining unbeaten in that time.

PSG, meanwhile, are unbeaten in 27 games across all competitions although their last game was a 1-1 draw to Clermont. Moreover, they had just three days of rest compared to Barcelona’s ten.

Barça Universal brings you an overview of how Xavi can play his cards at Parc des Princes tomorrow.

Defence: The key to stopping Mbappe

Tomorrow’s clash, in many ways, will be the toughest challenge yet for Barcelona’s defence this season. Going up against one of the most threatening forces in world football, the result will depend on the Catalans’ defensive resilience.

Luckily enough, Xavi’s men have found their footing in defence in recent games. They have conceded just one goal in their last six games across all competitions and have found new heroes at the back.

Ronald Araujo, who missed Barcelona’s last match through a niggle, will be back in the starting lineup for the all-important clash.

Araujo’s partner on the night is likely to be La Masia’s prodigal talent Pau Cubarsi who has been the team’s best defender by far in recent games. His aerial prowess, defensive positioning and playmaking will all be essential if Barcelona are to take home a lead.

The keys to stopping Mbappe. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Out wide, we believe Jules Kounde and Joao Cancelo will retain their spots on the right and left side respectively. The former will be in the spotlight at Parc des Princes as he will go head-to-head with his compatriot Kylian Mbappe on the flank.

Starting in goal behind the four defensive forces will be Marc-Andre ter Stegen who will be looking to keep his sixth clean sheet in seven games.

Midfield: Worth the risk

As was the case with Araujo, Andreas Christensen did not feature against Las Palmas owing to a minor fitness setback. He will be back in the lineup against PSG and will have to play out of his skin as Barcelona’s pivot on the night.

The second name in midfield, quite simply, writes itself. Ilkay Gundogan has been the Catalans’ best player this season and is a guaranteed starter against Luis Enrique’s men.

The German veteran’s role will be decided based on the team’s situation and formation, but Xavi would ideally like to place him in an attack-centric role to exploit his ability in the final third.

The third spot in midfield has been the dilemma in Xavi’s mind, for Frenkie de Jong, Sergi Roberto and Fermin Lopez are all in contention for the vacancy.

The Dutchman, though out of rhythm, is the manager’s best option in terms of providing the team with stability on the field. He may be just returning from injury, but if there is a time for Barcelona to rush a player back, it is now.

De Jong, thus, should take the third spot in midfield to give Barça better control of the proceedings and free Gundogan from the shackles of a defensive role.

Attack: Raphinha ahead of Felix

Only one of the three places in attack is practically contested for by more than one player – the left wing.

Of Joao Felix, Raphinha and Ferran Torres, however, the Brazilian is best placed to start. He is coming off a sensational run of form with three goal contributions in his last five appearances and will look to capitalise on Achraf Hakimi’s absence.

Barcelona’s great threat in attack. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

On the opposite flank, Lamine Yamal will start for Xavi’s side as the right-winger. The La Masia star has been the team’s singular point of difference for months now and will look to wreak havoc down the right.

The final piece in the puzzle will be Robert Lewandowski whose finesse in front of goal will be more important than ever. After all, taking one’s chances in the UCL is the fundamental requirement for a successful run.

Substitutes

Xavi will have no dearth of substitutes against the French club on Wednesday, especially considering the number of his players currently in a good moment.

Sergi Roberto and Fermin Lopez are both valuable resources for the manager to count on from the bench if he requires more energy in the middle of the park.

Moreover, Pedri is also back from injury, and he could get a few minutes even though Barcelona will be extra-cautious with him.

Inigo Martinez is another option for the manager to call off the bench for a cameo if the defence must be fortified at any point.

Xavi’s riches are the most abundant, however, in the final third, where he can choose between Vitor Roque, Joao Felix and Ferran Torres who all offer varying profiles.

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