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.
Predicted Barcelona lineup against Athletic Bilbao
Sunday could be the first taste of silverware for Barcelona after more than a year-long hiatus. It may be the least important of the competitions the Blaugrana’s participate in, yet words cannot describe the paramount importance of a victory, as they get ready to take on Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final.
Barcelona have had dismal performances in all tournaments alike in the past season. Undoubtedly, that was a huge psychological blow to captains and players alike. With that in mind, even a minor victory like the Supercopa de Espana could provide the team with a world of confidence.
The final obstacle between the Catalans and silverware is a certain Basque outfit that whom they saw off very recently. Barcelona had taken down Bilbao in quite convincing fashion ten days ago, though the scoreline reflects a closer encounter than it was. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Athletic Bilbao.
After months of dilemma, permutations and combinations, Ronald Koeman has finally found his best defender in Ronald Araujo. Pace, agility, strength, size, the Uruguayan has it all. He will undoubtedly start the game. Alongside him will likely be Clement Lenglet who had a reasonable outing in the Semi-final. A clutch performance in a high stakes game could be the much-needed confidence booster for the Frenchman.
With Sergino Dest back fit, he will find his name in the lineup on Sunday. He will have to put up more masterclasses at the right-back position with Sergi Roberto’s return from injury nearing.
Jordi Alba will once again look to be the difference-maker, operating and dictating the flow of the game on the left side. The Spaniard has looked more confident than ever and will hope to continue more of the same for the upcoming clash
Starting at the heart of the midfield will be Sergio Busquets, the man who looks revitalized after the shift in the system by the manager. In the semifinal, he put up one of his most perfect games yet. He will be accompanied by the duo of Frenkie de Jong and Pedri who have also immensely benefitted from the 4-3-3 system.
Frenkie finally seems at the peak of his powers and has been directly involved in goals almost for fun. Pedri, on the other hand, has been on an incredible uphill in development. He is mature beyond his years, and that contributes a lot to this Barcelona side. The midfield will have to work extremely hard to prevent a trophyless season for Barça.
Ousmane Dembele has not had a better phase in his Barcelona career than he is enjoying right now. The Frenchman played the full 120 minutes against Sociedad and looks set for another start in the final. His ability to turn up clutch is something Koeman will be counting on.
After missing the last game through muscle discomfort, reports suggest that Lionel Messi could feature in the big clash on Sunday. He successfully trained with the group in the final session, and everything indicates he could start on Sunday. The Argentine will be a major factor deciding the final result, needless to say.
Rounding off the Barcelona lineup against Bilbao will be Antoine Griezmann. The World-Cup winner was directly involved in Barcelona’s opening goal in the last game and will look to continue his good run of form
Griezmann · Messi · Dembele
Pedri · Busquets · de Jong
Alba · Lenglet · Araujo · Dest
Miralem Pjanic will continue to remain an option to replace Sergio Busquets in the long-drawn fixture. Fresh legs will indeed be key on the night.
Riqui Puig was the hero of the night scoring the decisive penalty after voluntarily taking up the responsibility. His passion could be rewarded with some minutes in the second half, especially if Barcelona are trailing
Fransico Trincao could come-on for Antoine Griezmann late in the second half to provide a boost in energy and pace on the right wing.