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Pedri, Cubarsi start in a 4-3-3: How Barcelona should line up against Girona

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Photo via GETTY IMAGES

Barcelona stopped the bleeding after back-to-back defeats to PSG and Real Madrid with a win over Valencia last weekend.

The Catalans are now virtually out of contention for any silverware this season, for the blow in El Clasico simply shattered any hopes of a comeback.

Xavi’s side now turn their eyes to the best-available consolation prize – the second place on the league standings, but that too is far from a given.

With Girona breathing down their back just two points behind them in La Liga, Barcelona enter tomorrow’s Catalan derby in a virtual must-win situation if they hope to end the season in second place.

Ahead of the high-voltage clash against Michel’s side, Xavi is without the services of Frenkie de Jong, Alejandro Balde and Gavi, all of whom are not expected to return this season.

Considering the quality of the opposition and the importance of finishing the season in second place, Xavi is unlikely to make major rotations in his lineup on the night. After all, the last meeting between the two teams ended in a 4-2 defeat at home for his side.

Here is now the Azulgranas should set up tomorrow night as they lock horns with their local rivals in the derby fixture.

Defence: Unchanged back-four

After a run of six consecutive clean sheets in La Liga, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen conceded five goals in the team’s last two outings.

Starting in goal tomorrow, he will look to get back on track with his 13th clean sheet of the campaign and put away the haunting memories of last weekend.

Ronald Araujo will likely start as the team’s leader in defence on the night and will also have amends to make at Estadi Montilivi after his blunder in the team’s last outing.

Joining the Uruguayan defender at the back will be Pau Cubarsi, the academy jewel who has made himself known as one of world football’s brightest prospects.

No major changes are expected in the full-back positions either, for Jules Kounde and Joao Cancelo have established themselves as largely able options at right-back and left-back respectively.

The focus, however, will be on the latter after his poor showings against PSG and Real Madrid, especially considering that the club have to make a decision about his future.

Midfield: Pedri returns, Fermin benched

Xavi’s two constants in midfield – Andreas Christensen and Ilkay Gundogan – are both expected to start on the night as the pivot and interior respectively.

The third place in midfield is where the manager faces his first dilemma of the XI, with in form Fermin Lopez, recently fit Pedri and club captain Sergi Roberto staking claim.

Pedri back in the XI. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

The Canary Islander would appear to be best placed to start of the three, especially with Xavi confirming his return to 100% fitness in his pre-match press conference.

Attack: Lewandowski chasing Pichichi

Moving to the final third, Xavi will likely stick to his tried and tested formula that has worked more often than not in big games.

Lamine Yamal will thus start as the team’s right-winger on the night with the in-form Raphinha placed on the left flank. Combining their pace with trickery, the duo will be tasked with opening up Girona’s tight-defensive lines.

Leading the attack from the centre, Robert Lewandowski will look to close the gap with Girona’s Artem Dobvyk who leads the Pichichi race with three goals more than the Polish star.

Coming off a stunning hat-trick against Valencia, he will be more motivated than ever to keep his run of good form going.

Substitutes

Fermin Lopez will likely be the manager’s first substitution off the bench on the night after the youngster dished out a special performance in the team’s last outing.

Vitor Roque, with rumours of a loan flying around, deserves at least a brief stint off the bench in the important match-up to prove his worth to the manager.

Joao Felix and Ferran Torres will continue to provide their regular cameos off the bench, rejuvenating the attack in the second half based on the game situations.

Finally, Inigo Martinez could be called up by the manager, especially keeping Cubarsi’s work-load in mind. After all, the Basque defender has not had many minutes this season.

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