What a turn La Liga has seen. The league which was supposedly over and decided has sprung back to life like never before. Every match day feels like it could prove to be decisive. Every match has the potential to imply drastic changes in the standings. Moreover, every team now has something to fight for, with which comes drastic costs for losses.
Barcelona to find themselves in similar territory. The Catalans now sit four points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid. Having been thumped out of the Champions League by Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, all eyes will be on Diego Simeone’s men in anticipation of the response. While on one side, such a devastating exit could have massive repercussions on the morale of players, there is a strong counter-argument as to the renewed focus on the League.
Nevertheless, Barcelona will have to come away with all three points against difficult opposition to keep the pressure on the leaders. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Real Sociedad.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen will undoubtedly be the starter on the night. After the gross injustice with the inexistent penalty against Huesca, the German will be keen to get back onto a clean sheet performance.
Despite Ronald Araujo receiving medical clearance, Koeman went for the safer option by not rushing him back. With a couple more days rest under his pocket, the Uruguayan seems set to start the big game. In the absence of Gerard Pique, he will be the leader at the back.
Clement Lenglet will look to put up a top performance ahead of national duty. With Didier Deschamps having plenty of options in central defence, it will require special performance from Lenglet to book a starting spot. With the Euros coming up, he will be more determined than ever to solidify his role.
The three-man backline will be completed by Oscar Mingueza. The youngster has received a call up to the Spanish U-21 side, and rightfully so. Mingueza has been stellar in defence, growing exponentially with every passing game. He will be a central figure in Sundays’ clash.
Sergio Busquets is the first name to fill the spot in midfield. In past weeks, the veteran has been nothing short of stellar. He is undoubtedly the heart of the side, and his presence will be vital against a threatening Real Sociedad.
The man of the moment, Pedri, will look to bolster up yet another masterclass. With his first outing with the Spanish National team just around the corner, he will push himself to the limit. Meanwhile, Frenkie de Jong will round off the centre of the park by starting in his usual advanced role. The Dutchman is only one booking away from a suspension and will have to be on his toes on a tense night.
The midfield is completed by the two wingbacks. As Sergi Roberto aims for a post-international break return, Sergino Dest will continue to start on the right. The past two games have seen the USMNT star return to full flow, and all of it will be needed once again on Sunday.
Jordi Alba’s sensational season just gets better with every passing game. The new formation has brought out the best of the left-back and allowed him to free his chains and venture forward. Once again against Sociedad, he will look to be the difference-maker.
Lionel Messi has been the best player in the world in the year 2021, and it isn’t even up for debate. With the Argentine in such form, any opposition would have a sense of fear. The captain will once again look to lead from the front, or let’s say from outside the box.
The Lineup will be completed by Antoine Griezmann in the front. The Frenchman once again attested to his quality with a banger of a goal against Huesca. This time up against much tougher opposition, the #7 needs to strap on his seatbelt and deliver big.
Griezmann · Messi
Alba · Pedri · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Araujo · Mingueza
Ilaix Moriba in less than seven games has surpassed what Milalem Pjanic and Riqui Puig have managed over the season. This speaks volumes on Koeman’s confidence in the youngster. He could certainly come in the second half.
Ousmane Dembele and Francisco Trincao are some other reliable options on the bench for the manager. They could be summoned in the latter half of the game to exploit the oppositions tired legs.
Preview: Barcelona’s strongest XI against Real Madrid
The title race is well and truly wide open. With Atletico Madrid still leaking points and Real Madrid trying to cope up with the tight schedule the Champions League brings with it, Barcelona would hope to be the favourites.
Barcelona travels to Madrid to face a team missing some big names. Sergio Ramos, Rafael Varane, Eden Hazard and Daniel Carvajal all miss out on the decisive clash. Nevertheless, if Los Blancos‘ performance against Liverpool is anything to go by, El Clasico will be a battle to remember. Meanwhile, Barcelona will once again have the services of Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
The result on Saturday will count for so much in the title race. In this creme-de-la-creme of clashes, here is how Barcelona could lineup against Real Madrid.
Marc Andre ter Stegen is always the first name on the list for Ronald Koeman. At the Alfredo de Stefano, the German wall will don the gloves and aim to keep the Madrid attack at bay.
Gerard Pique finds himself back in the Squad, however, it seems unlikely he will be given a start considering lack of match fitness. The three-man defence system has worked wonders for the Catalans, and Koeman will not look to change the system. A trio of Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza, and Clement Lenglet could possibly start on Saturday.
Oscar Mingueza has been rock solid and on a constant rise. With every passing game, the youngster’s confidence grows, and so does the performance. Meanwhile, Clement Lenglet had a tremendous game against Real Valladolid, hardly placing a foot wrong. The Frenchman finally looks to be hitting his stride. Ronald Araujo is fit and ready to start once again and will have to be the leader on the field on the night.
The midfield is where the game will be won or lost for Barcelona. The hosts boast of one of the most fearsome trios in midfield, who reiterated their greatness against Liverpool midweek.
Up against Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, it will be crucial for Frenkie de Jong to start in midfield. The Dutchman is one of the best in the business in controlling the tempo of the midfield.
The No.21 will be accompanied by Barcelona’s veteran maestro Sergio Busquets. Busquets will account for so much of controlling the midfield. Moreover, his distribution and defensive contributions will be invaluable.
Pedri will complete the midfield alongside the others. The recently internationally capped Spaniard will have to be on the top of his game at the di Stefano. He will be the fulcrum of Barcelona’s creative outlet.
Sergino Dest did face stagnation in performance last month. In the last few games, however, there has been a resurgence. The USMNT fullback has been more lively than ever in attack and has been completing take-one for fun. It will be crucial for him to exploit the right-wing on the night.
Jordi Alba will unsurprisingly continue to start at left wing-back. With Real Madrid being weakened at right-back, Alba will have his chance on a platter to once again come up trumps.
Ousmane Dembele has often been Koeman’s go-to option as a central player in the new formation. Once again, a two-man forward line could see the Frenchman return to duties in the front line.
Lionel Messi had a relatively quiet game against Valladolid, his first one in 2021. However, he will look to step up on the biggest stage in El Clasico, as he always does. The Argentine has been at the peak of his powers this year, and he could inspire the side to another title with a great game tonight.
Dembele · Messi
Alba · Pedri · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Araujo · Mingueza
Antoine Griezmann, who recently welcomed his third child, will be more motivated than ever to return to his peak powers. The Frenchman undoubtedly has a celebration or two in store for the latest member of his family and will hunt for a chance to showcase it on Saturday.
Fransisco Trincao could come on for Ousmane Dembele late in the second half to bring in fresh legs. His intricate dribbling could prove invaluable on the night.
Ilaix Moriba could be utilized to ramp up the pressure in the midfield, while Riqui Puig is bound to get a few minutes as well.