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Gundogan, Araujo start in a 4-3-3: How Barcelona should line up against Napoli | Champions League

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Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

Games continue to come hard and fast for Barcelona as they now shift their attention towards the Champions League. Napoli await them in the round of 16 first leg at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium tomorrow.

Coming off a narrow 1-2 win against Celta Vigo in the league, Barcelona are not particularly flying high, but have definitely improved their performances in recent times.

In fact, the Catalans have won three of their last four games since Xavi announced his decision to leave the club at the end of the season.

And while Barça have scored nine goals in the process, their defensive problems continue to persist, as they have conceded five, including three to Granada at home in a 3-3 draw.

These errors will not be forgiven in the Champions League, though, especially against a Napoli side who have sacked their manager Walter Mazzarri, and replaced him with Francesco Colzano ahead of the clash.

With Joao Felix and Sergi Roberto back in the squad after injury, this is how we at BU believe Barcelona should lineup tomorrow against the Naples outfit.

Defence: Inigo over Cubarsi

Pau Cubarsi has been a revelation for Barcelona this season, touted to the biggest centre-back prospect from La Masia since Gerard Pique. However, he should not be thrown in the eye of the tornado tomorrow against a tough Napoli side.

Instead, Xavi should opt to use Inigo Martinez and Ronald Araujo as his centre-backs. The physical profiles of these two will be far more useful against someone like Victor Osimhen, who is one of the toughest strikers to deal with due to his back to goal play.

Araujo suffered from some discomfort on the weekend, but has been given the license to play tomorrow.

These two will, of course, guard Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal. The German was far better against Celta Vigo compared to his performance against Granada, but will need to bring back his 2022 levels in the Champions League.

Finally, Jules Kounde should be asked to cover the right-back position, dealing with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on the wing. Joao Cancelo should retain his spot on the left.

Midfield: Gundogan back

Xavi opted to bench Ilkay Gundogan against Celta, hoping to have him 100% fit and gunning for the Napoli clash. The German has been the best player for Barcelona so far, and will return to the heart of the midfield tomorrow.

Mr. Clutch. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

He should be accompanied by Frenkie de Jong, who has been starting as the deepest centre-back alongside Andreas Christensen, forming a double pivot, while Gundogan gets the license to attack the box.

Pedri is expected to be the final piece in this puzzle, starting as an attacking midfielder. Him and Cancelo will also be providing width on the left-wing, while Kounde stays back in what will look like a 3-2-2-3 often.

Attack: 8th in a row for Yamal

As unfortunate as it is right now, Barcelona cannot afford to bench Lamine Yamal, who has been the best forward in the team in 2024. The 16-year-old has two goals, an assist, and has also won a penalty in his last two games, for context, and should start as the RW tomorrow.

Robert Lewandowski is finally getting back to form, having scored four goals and given one assist in his last five games for Barcelona. He will have a lot of responsibility and pressure tomorrow, with fans hoping he can deliver as the starting no. 9 once again.

Pedri · Lewandowski · Yamal
de Jong · Christensen · Gundogan
Cancelo · Inigo · Araujo · Kounde
ter Stegen

Substitutes

With Joao Felix back in the squad, the Portuguese will likely get some minutes as the left-winger tomorrow, alongside Raphinha, who could come on at some point in the second half to give Yamal some much-needed rest.

Elsewhere, Xavi could look to bring on Hector Fort as one of the full-backs if one of Kounde or Cancelo are not up to the mark, with their form heavily inconsistent over the last month or so.

Vitor Roque is another player that be can relied upon, especially if Napoli are able to close down Robert Lewandowski in and around the box.

Finally, Fermin has been impressive in limited time this season, and definitely deserves more game-time. His ability to play as a winger is also crucial, and he could be asked to replace Pedri in that role, especially if Barcelona are defending a lead.

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