Barcelona will be eager to go into the international break on the back of a victory as they get set to host Deportivo Alaves in La Liga on Sunday afternoon.
The Blaugrana have had a difficult couple of weeks, losing two of their last three fixtures across all competitions. With Girona pulling away at the top of the table, it is important that Xavi Hernandez & co. stay in touch with a win this weekend.
Despite the difference in stature and quality between the two teams, the game will not be easy for Barcelona, given that they are going through a rough patch at the moment.
At the same time, Alaves have lost only one of their last five games in all competitions, with their most recent match ending in a 1-0 win over UD Almeria.
As such, the pressure will be on the reigning La Liga champions at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Montjuic tomorrow afternoon.
Frenkie de Jong and Sergi Roberto are out with injuries while Gavi misses out due to suspension, leaving Xavi light on options in midfield. And, here’s how Barcelona could take the field in their final fixture before the final international break of 2023.
There could be some changes in the offing, especially after the recent performances, but no major surprises are expected in the defensive department.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen will continue to captain the team in Sergi Roberto’s absence and will man the goal for Barcelona against Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.
Jules Kounde should be reinstated to the starting XI at the heart of the Blaugrana defence after not starting in the midweek defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk. The Frenchman is expected to partner up with Ronald Araujo, who has recovered from the discomfort he suffered last game.
At right-back, there is simply no looking past Joao Cancelo with Xavi not having many natural options for the position. Meanwhile, Alejandro Balde, who was left out of the Spain squad recently, should return at left-back, replacing Marcos Alonso.
Ilkay Gundogan has hardly received any break this season, but it is unlikely that he will be rested against Alaves, given Barcelona are in desperate need of a win. As such, the German international is expected to slot in as the holding midfielder tomorrow.
With no Gavi or Frenkie de Jong, Pedri should make his first start since returning from his two-month injury layoff. The 20-year-old’s presence should aid Barcelona in their attacking endeavours, with additional creativity and impetus arriving from Fermin Lopez.
Up top, Robert Lewandowski should start from the get-go, as he looks to lead Barça’s turnaround from the front.
Joao Felix ought to return to the lineup on the left flank, after being benched against Shakhtar Donetsk. Lamine Yamal could be another fresh face in attack, having not started any of the Blaugrana’s last three matches.
Felix · Lewandowski · Yamal
Fermin · Gundogan · Pedri
Balde · Kounde · Araujo · Cancelo
Should he not start, Ferran Torres is certain to come off the bench at some point for Barcelona against Alaves. The same holds for Raphinha as well, especially if Xavi & co. are in need of more attacking firepower.
Oriol Romeu could relieve Ilkay Gundogan at some point in the second period while Inigo Martinez could do the same for Ronald Araujo, given the latter’s fitness trouble against Shakhtar.