For one final time this season, possibly for one last time under Ronald Koeman, Barcelona will take the field on Saturday. The season took a nosedive that few foresaw but left none surprised. Though Barcelona plays the relegated Eibar at the Ipurua, all eyes will be on the title decisive clashes of the two Madrid giants.
Joan Laporta came out to make a huge statement earlier this week and spoke of a new revolution in the club this summer. A long list of potentially departing players has been prepared, and many of them could get their final chance to wear the Blaugrana colours on Saturday. Despite his uncertain future, Ronald Koeman would like to believe otherwise and use this opportunity to test out the bench strength ahead of next season. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Eibar.
The changes on the night will start right from the goalkeeper, although it is forced. With Marc-Andre ter Stegen out after a surgical procedure, Neto will don the gloves on the night. Given Barcelona’s delicate financial situation, Neto has been one of the names linked with an exit. In what will mostly be his final game for the Catalans, the Brazilian will look to impress.
Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo have both been placed on the short ‘untransferable’ list. Barring any surprises, the duo will be with the first team again next season. Both the La Masia graduates will likely start against Eibar and get another chance to show why they are so highly rated.
The centre-back trio will likely be completed by Samuel Umtiti. Since he arrived in 2016, the defender’s career has taken the wildest of twists. The Frenchman was a monster in his first two seasons. However, his steep decline after the World Cup owing to injuries has seen him fall out of favour. With his departure from Barcelona, almost certain he will get one last game with the club of his dreams.
After a rough set of games and a difficult two weeks, Sergio Busquets will likely get a rest. Miralem Pjanic is expected to get a start on the night. Since his arrival in the summer, the Bosnian has been frozen out of action. Pjanic is actively looking for a move out of Barcelona. With clubs like PSG and Chelsea interested in him, he will look to impress his suitors with a clinical display on Saturday.
Frenkie de Jong missed the 2-1 loss against Celta Vigo through suspension. While most of the side gets a rest, the Dutchman will once again take the field and, this time, lead the midfield.
Pedri has been given an early start to his vacation, and rightly so. At 52 games played, the season has been particularly long for the 18-year-old. With the opening of a slot in midfield, Riqui Puig could get the nod. The young midfielder played the second half against Celta, and a start could serve to boost his morale further.
Sergino Dest will start at right wing-back on the night. With talks of Emerson coming on to provide direct competition, The USMNT star knows he has to step up and cement his spot- now more than ever,
Junior Firpo is another among the long list of potential departures. However, unlike many others, reports say there is a long list of suitors interested in the Spanish left-back. Being spoilt for choices, a good performance against Eibar could only enhance Firpo’s stocks.
Ousmane Dembele‘s situation at Barcelona has always been confusing. Flashes of brilliance followed by stretches of mediocrity have been the norm. While his talent has never been in question, one ponders if he justifies the massive salary pinned to him. Rumour has it that Dembele might be on his way out, and Saturday provides the right chance to both parties – for the player to impress the club, and for the club to make a decision.
Antoine Griezmann will start on the night as Lionel Messi has been granted permission to start his vacations early and misses out on the squad list. However, it could very well be the last game Griezmann plays for Barcelona, among several others, as well.
The substitutions too will be largely emotional and departure themed changes on the night. Martin Braithwaite will be amongst the first to depart and will get a final chance to play for the club.
Ilaix Moriba will get minutes in the second half to prove he deserves his almost ascertained promotion to the senior team. The La Masia talent has earned a place in the coach’s good books and has justified it on the field.
Fransisco Trincao has had a silent second half of the season. With a loan deal on the cards, Trincao will certainly come off the bench to make an impression.