The result at San Mames was not just a blessing, it was a necessity for this Barcelona side. It brought with it a set of positives that gave the fans and players hope. Right from Pedri’s highlighted masterclass to Lionel Messi’s rediscovered finishing; Frenkie de Jong’s masterclass and Antoine Griezmann’s silent yet impactful evening, it had headlines written all over. Yet at the same time, it once again clearly displayed the glaring holes in the side, giving Ronald Koeman the right platform to work out solutions.
Barcelona have picked up six out of six away points in the last two games. Now, the Catalans aim for nine as they travel to the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes in Granada. Diego Martinez’s side have had a reasonable start to the campaign. They currently sit at seventh, just four places behind the side they host.
At this stage is in season, every game is a must-win. Here is how Barcelona should line-up against Granada
Donning the gloves on the night will once again be Marc Andre ter Stegen who hardly ever has a quiet game. With defensive confusions this season, the German has had to be extra vigilant between the posts. Needless to say, he has been doing a fine job.
With Clement Lenglet suspended, Oscar Mingueza will almost certainly get another start alongside Barcelona’s best defender this season, Ronald Araujo. While the Mingueza-Araujo pairing has been tested before, there were issues to be addressed in their partnership. However, not to mention that they have also complimented each other well on previous occasions.
Jordi Alba will once again start at left-back, with Sergino Dest at the right-back position. The American-Spanish full-back partnership has become the mainstay of Koeman’s side and has been far more effective than fullback duos of previous seasons.
The assist to Pedri’s goal was one of the highlights of the game, as Frenkie de Jong continues to go from strength to strength. Heading into the clash, the Dutchman must be pushing to finally hit the level he is capable of. No.21 has had a rejuvenated role in the last few games, and it has certainly paid the dividends.
Alongside the Dutch international could well be Miralem Pjanic. Sergio Busquets has started the last two games, and Koeman will be eying to get in a couple of rotations with the Supercopa de Espana coming up.
Pedri and Lionel Messi are the two untouchable players in the starting line-up. The combination of the 18-year-old with the club talisman has become a talking point across the world. One again on the night, young Pedri will most likely start as the attacking midfielder with his partner-in-crime and mentor Leo Messi on the right.
Ousmane Dembele has been a whiff of fresh air in the last few games. His pace has helped cut through the tight defences, and his fearlessness to shoot has been a major positive. The Frenchman could well start on the left-wing once again.
Completing the line-up will be Antoine Griezmann. The World-cup winner had a great game against Bilbao, though it went largely unnoticed with other players providing masterclasses. His assist to the captain for the third game sealed off the game and ensured the Catalans walked off with all three points.
Fransisco Trincao has been criminally underused in recent outings, and he will surely be in the coach’s plans as a valuable substitute. The Portuguese national provides much more proactivity on the wings, and also brings the best out of Sergino Dest by providing a constant option.
Ilaix Moriba has been called up to the first-team squad for the first time. There is always the tempting prospect that he could well receive his debut with the first team. The last ten minutes of the game will be one to look out for.
Sergio Busquets could come on late in the game to get a few minutes replacing Miralem Pjanic.
Predicted Barcelona lineup against Rayo Vallecano
As Barcelona’s financial and institutional problems deepen their roots, the only source of respite and reassurance could be the on-field performance. Over the last few games, Barcelona have seen a redemption. The midfield engine finally seems to be clicking with Frenkie de Jong and Pedri demonstrating their monstrous abilities.
The fitness boost to Ousmane Dembele and the suddenly renewed form of Antoine Griezmann can only mean good things for the side. The cherry on the cake? The return of Lionel Messi after his two-game suspension.
The Cup returns, this time with Rayo Vallecano on the cards. The second division side progressed in the previous round having seen of Primera side Elche in an impressive 2-0 win. They now face off against Ronald Koeman’s side.
The cup has been a difficult hunting ground for Spain’s elite. With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid falling prey to surprise oppositions, Barcelona will have to vary of the same. It can be the Blaugranas‘ only saving grace this season. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Rayo Vallecano:
As is tradition in the Copa del Rey, Marc Andre ter Stegen could get a deserved rest. Koeman will turn to Neto to don the gloves on the night.
Samuel Umtiti had a promising game against Elche. Going by the Frenchman’s performance, it would not be a surprise to see him start. Ronald Araujo will be the second player in central defence. Barcelona are yet to lose a game while the Uruguayan has started, and he will be looking to keep that record unbroken.
Sergino Dest has been ruled out of the Cup clash, and Sergi Roberto is yet to be given his all clear. All signs point to Oscar Mingueza being given a third successive game at right-back. The La Masia prospect has been solid in defence but has a lot to improve going forward.
Junior Firpo will get another start as the left-back on the night. Last time around, the youngster failed to grab his chance. It will be a crucial performance for him on a personal level, as he looks to attract suitors for the upcoming window.
On a night where Koeman will look to look to heavily rotate his side, one could expect a fresher and novel combination in the middle of the park.
Sergio Busquets could continue to start, however, given his suspension for the upcoming League clash. The Spaniard will look to dictate the play in the middle of the park on the night.
Riqui Puig could well make a start after his game-sealing goal against Elche. The youngster was at the centre of limelight in the weekend, scoring just minutes after coming on. His start will be highly anticipated
The midfield will be completed by Miralem Pjanic, who has been less involved so far than he would have hoped for. The Bosnian has only had the odd chance to display his worth. Every game for him is a battle to climb up the pecking order.
Ousmane Dembele has been heavily involved in the past few weeks, and resting him would be a wise choice. Luckily for the manager, young Konrad de la Fuente offers a very similar profile and can fit it perfectly against Rayo Vallecano. His maturity and agility on the ball could be an X factor for the Catalans.
Finally returning home through the middle will be Lionel Messi, after serving his two-game ban. On any other night in the cup, the Argentine would be rested. However, after missing the last two games, this would be the ideal chance for Koeman to get him back into match rhythm.
At right-wing would likely be Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman has had a resurgence of sorts and will be hoping to pull on the streak. Barcelona have struggled in the final third, and playing an experienced forward in Greizmann could be the difference on the night.
Konrad · Messi · Griezmann
Puig · Busquets · Pjanic
Firpo · Umtiti · Araujo · Mingueza
As in any knockout game, Koeman’s choices for substitutes will depend heavily on the scoreline
If Barcelona have a convincing lead, further rotations are very likely. This could include Ilaix Moriba for Sergio Busquets, Clement Lenglet for Ronald Araujo and Alex Collado for Antoine Griezmann.
However if his side trail, Koeman will once again turn to the difference makers on his bench. Pedri would be a certain option in such a scenario to replace Puig. Jordi Alba too can be called on replacing Junior Firpo.