Barcelona have seen slowly but surely been seeing improvements under the management of Xavi Hernandez. While the team has failed the so-called ‘big’ tests in Bayern Munich, Benfica, and Granada, the overall level of performance and mentality has increased multifold.
The Blaugranas do have a chance to cement themselves as a team to be taken seriously as they travel to Saudi Arabia for the Spanish Super Cup. They will contest the first semi-finals of the competition against bitter rivals Real Madrid, while Athletic Club lock horns with Atletico Madrid on Thursday night.
24 players have been called up ahead of this game, with the hope that Pedri and now registered Ferran Torres will follow after testing negative for COVID-19 by tomorrow.
Eventually, 11 will take the field, starting with Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German shot-stopper has had back-to-back solid games with his hands even though his distribution against Granada was suspect at best. Real Madrid will make him pay if he continues the same.
Ronald Araujo has not been granted medical clearance following a surgery on his hand, but travels nonetheless. If reports are to be believed, he will be risked for the game, starting at right-back. Jordi Alba retains his spot as the left-back.
Much like the rest of the team, Gerard Pique‘s stocks have been on the rise since Xavi’s arrival. He will start in the heart of the defence alongside Clement Lenglet. The Frenchman will replace Eric Garcia, who has picked up a hamstring injury.
Despite picking up the first red card of his career no more than two days back, Gavi will continue in midfield for Barça. We assume Frenkie de Jong will not start the game due to injury but will get some time from the bench. Nico Gonzalez is our pick as the other central midfielder.
Sergio Busquets’ importance to this Barcelona side cannot be understated. The Spaniard is a demon in possession, picking out passes players cannot see with three eyes. He will be crucial against Madrid’s sensational midfield of Toni Kroos, Casemiro, and Luka Modric.
The attack is where things get unpredictable for Barcelona. But we can only assume Ansu Fati immediately returns to the starting XI as the left-winger. The teenager is inarguably the most clinical attacker at the club, and given that there will not be many chances to bury Madrid’s defence, he has to start.
Fati will be partnered by Ousmane Dembele, who takes up the spot on the right, while man-in-form Luuk de Jong spearheads the attack.
Predicted Barça XI: ter Stegen; Araujo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Nico, Busquets, Gavi; Dembele, Luuk, Fati
Ez Abde saw some time off the bench on the weekend and will probably have to suffice with the same against Madrid. The same goes for Ferran Jutgla. With Fati back, the Barcelona B duo will be drop the sidelines for a while.
Shockingly, it seems Memphis Depay has lost his place in the Barcelona XI as well. The Dutchman cannot maintain width like Dembele or Fati and is not a target for crosses either. He might get time if Barcelona need a goal, though.
At the back, Oscar Mingueza could come on to help defend any lead Barcelona might have, while Dani Alves will be asked to offer offensive reinforcements in an opposite case.