If the horrid performance against Atletico Madrid was not enough, injuries continue to plague Barcelona’s season further. The Catalans were outplayed at the Wanda Metropolitano. However, the question is: How does the team recover from a defeat like that?
After initial injuries to Ansu Fati and Sergio Busquets threatened to derail the Catalans season, the club has now confirmed both Gerard Pique and Seri Roberto to be out through injury for a long spell.
Yet, for all the mayhem in the league, Barcelona’s position in the champions league is safe. With three wins from their opening three encounters, they sit untouched at the top of the group. Ronald Koeman pointed to the same when asked about his decision of resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong. With so many key players out injured and others rested, how should Barcelona line-up against Dynamo Kyiv?
What to expect from Dynamo Kyiv?
The first game between the two sides provided more than it had promised. Kyiv were missing 13 players through COVID-19, yet that did not reflect on the pitch. Barcelona dominated the opening spell of the game. However, beyond the 25-minute mark, there was a sudden drop in energy levels. The Catalans seemed to ease off, opening the gates to a close-fought level headed battle which could have gone either way.
Mircea Lucescu has stuck to his successful 4-1-4-1 in the Champions League too. The overload in midfield is a potent obstacle to most oppositions, though one would expect Barcelona to break it down. The Ukrainians have often resorted to, and will most probably look to once again implement a low block. The press is high, however, isn’t very prominent in the opposition half.
Lucescu will bring up a harbour of troubles for Barcelona. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)
Instead, Lucescu’s men look to hit on the counter. Victor Tsygankov, Vitaliy Buyalski and Vladydlav Supryaga have time and time again proved to invaluable for the same.
Learning from their mistakes, Barcelona will have to plug the spaces in between lines to come back home with all three points. It is a much younger side travelling to Ukraine. Moreover, with this being a chance for many of them to impress, one can expect the youth to step up.
How should the Barcelona line-up?
The only department that seems sorted for the time being is the Goalkeeper. Yet, ter Stegen too is coming off a horrid mistake at the Wanda Metropolitano. One that cost Barcelona the match. Undoubtedly, the German will be keen to make a statement on Tuesday.
The defence is in jeopardy. Gerard Pique could likely miss anywhere between three months to the end of the season after suffering a muscle sprain and partial cruciate ligament tear. Ronald Araujo is not fit to compete either, and with Samuel Umtiti’s state not helping the cause, Koeman stares into blackness.
Yet, one man’s loss is another’s gain. Given the situation, young Barcelona B centre-back Oscar Mingueza could get his chance to impress. In fact, it was a point Koeman specifically hinted to at the pre-match interview. Alongside him will undoubtedly be Clement Lenglet, whose importance is now more than ever. In Pique’s absence, the Frenchman will have to take up the onus of leadership and marshalling the troops.
Sergi Roberto’s injury opens the door for Sergino Dest to start the game at right-back. Unquestionably, his pace will be crucial to neutralise Kyiv’s threat on the counter.
At left-back, one expects Jordi Alba to start once again. In the absence of Lionel Messi, the Spaniard’s importance will be more than ever to create chances going forward.
Ronald Koeman could opt for a change in formation going into this clash, given his limited resources. Indeed, a 4-3-3 would be an ideal setup to try with the new crop of players. Miralem Pjanic could start as the defensive midfielder operating deeper in the position. Nevertheless, It is not a new role for the Bosnian, as he has played as a single pivot on many occasions in his career.
The midfield could be completed by the duo of Pedri and Carles Alena. Pedri had a comparatively quiet night against Atletico Madrid and will look to make amends. Carles Alena could finally get a well-deserved start after being neglected from the start of the season.
Antoine Griezmann could well start as the centre-forward on the night. The Frenchman has come under intense scrutiny by the media, both for his performances and statement made by people in his environment. Indeed, it will be an essential night for the World Cup winner, as he will lead the Catalan attack.
🗣 — Griezmann: "I am very well here at Barça, they have welcomed me very well. I want to help the team. They trusted me and now I want to reciprocate that trust by helping the team win. There is no problem with anyone, I'm really fine and I just ask you to leave me a bit calm." pic.twitter.com/XuOLl92GQH— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 23, 2020
Flanking him on the left side would be Ousmane Dembele, who is undoubtedly a major asset for Koeman. In these trying times with limited options, his all-round play comes as a whiff of fresh air.
On the right-flank, Fransisco Trincao would be the ideal option. Koeman has under-utilised the Portuguese winger so far. However, Tuesday night could be his chance to impress as the Dutch manager looks to rest key players. Moreover, his combination with Dest will be crucial for Barcelona to break down Lucescu’s side.
Copa del Rey final preview: Predicted Barcelona lineup against Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona continued their newfound pattern of turning off in the big games. Once again, the Catalans failed to turn up on a Clasico night, failing to pick up even a single point.
The worst way to head into a cup final is with a defeat in one of the biggest games of the season. Coming off a loss that potentially loses the title is not the way Koeman would have wanted to enter this week. However, Barcelona,s inability to turn up when it matters is now getting serious. It is far beyond the stages of misfortunes and well into the path of being a fact.
This is the managers only guaranteed shot at silverware. Yet, heading into this game, the atmosphere in the Catalan capital is nothing short of chaos. Sources close to the club are whining about the referee once again, days before the game. Jordi Alba’s weak mentality has once again come to the forefront with his latest leaked conversation with Gerard Pique that shows him giving up even before stepping on the field.
Barcelona needs to step out of this shadow of excuses. Being one of the biggest clubs in Europe mandates winning even in the most adverse conditions. It necessitates believing in oneself and the team more than anything else. Barcelona have choked in the final of the Supercup, in the game against Juventus, the first leg against PSG and both El Clasicos. It is high time they put those losses behind them and show the world they have not forgotten how to win trophies. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Atheltic Bilbao.
Starting with the gloves on the night will once again be Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German has once again come under scrutiny in recent weeks. If there is ever a chance for the goalkeeper to prove that he is invaluable on such big nights, Saturday night is that opportunity.
Gerard Pique’s participation continues to be under a heavy cloud of doubt. The Spaniard has still not recuperated completely, and rushing him would not be wise. Additionally, Sergino Dests rather meek showing against Real Madrid has Ronald Koeman contemplating a return to the 4-3-3 system for the upcoming clash. The 3-5-2 was never built to last in the first place, anyway. That said, Ronald Araujo and Clement Lenglet will be the starters in central defence.
While the Uruguayan has recently returned from injury, he still showed glimpses of his extraordinary pre-injury form once again. Lenglet, on the other hand, is finally coming into a confident frame of mind. The Frenchman never looked the same since the humiliating defeat to Bayern Munich. Now finally, he is once again defending with a much better mindset.
Meanwhile, Oscar Mingueza is coming off a textbook performance against a difficult real Madrid side. While a case can be made for Sergi Roberto, not rewarding the Spanish youngster after such a tremendous performance would be unfair. Moreover, Roberto is just returning from injury. A direct start in a cup final may not be the route Koeman wants to go down. That said, Mingueza could well start at right-back on the night.
Jordi Alba has been one of the best left-backs of the season, yet there is a massive sentiment that he shouldn’t start on the night. Watching a senior member of the dressing room talk so pessimistically ahead of a massive game is terrible news, both for the team and the fans. Yet, one knows that the Spaniard will start, mainly owing to the back of any able backups. He will be crucial, no doubt, however, the weak mentality is a matter of serious concern.
Sergio Busquets will start as the defensive midfielder at Estadio de la Cartuja. Up against the likes of Dani and Raul Garcia in midfield, and Inaki Williams constantly looking to break, Busquets will have to be inch-perfect with every step.
Frenkie de Jong will start in front of the veteran midfielder. Once again back in midfield duties, the 23-year-old will be crucial for the Catalans penetration into opposition territory. His guile and vision will be key on the night.
Pedri struggled in the first period of the Clasico yet came back stronger after a rough patch. The 18-year-old is one of the most promising prospects in world football. Once again, his consistency will be put to the test on Saturday. It could well be Pedri’s vision that is the difference between the two sides on Saturday.
Antoine Griezmann made the difference when these two sides met last, and everything signals that he may get his start again. The Frenchman did not get the chance to start the game against Madrid and will be eager to return in style.
Ousmane Dembele has had a renewed, though not very successful, stint as a target man this season. His pace has been the fatal spearhead for so many oppositions. Yet, a rather low conversion ratio is the thorn in the heel. If Barcelona is to walk away with a trophy, Dembele cannot be wasteful in front of the goal.
Lionel Messi will undoubtedly start in the forward line, aiming to win his first silverware in two seasons. The Argentine had a rather quiet outing is yet another Clasico and will be keen to shut critics once again with a game-defining performance. One of Lionel Messi’s greatest ever goals came against Athletic Bilbao in a cup final. Will Saturday bring more of the same?
Griezmann · Messi · Dembele
Pedri · Busquets · de Jong
Alba · Lenglet · Araujo · Dest
Ilaix Moriba has become to go-to man for Ronald Koeman in any midfield crisis. His never say die spirit and no-nonsense attitude have earned him a special place in the side. Moreover, he is a gifted young talent that deserves every minute he plays.
Riqui Puig would be another option to up the tempo of the game in the second half. The youngster could come on for Pedri and provide an immediate impact as he often has.
Fransisco Trincao and Martin Braithwaite could also be able weapons for the managers towards the latter part of the game.