Barcelona are on a tightrope once again. This time, however, the cup, which is usually neglected as the least important target is the primary objective of Ronald Koeman’s men.
Just under 72 hours of facing Lopetegui’s men at the Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan, the Catalans welcome the side home to host the second leg of the semi-final of the Copa del Rey. The Blaugranas trail by two goals, which amps up the graveness of the situation. Koeman and co. need to score at least three goals to go through, not to mention that they cannot afford to concede. An away goal to Sevilla would be a wound too deep for the Blaugranas to recover from.
In many respects, this is the most important game of the season for the hosts. While it could seal a place in the Cup final, more importantly, it would provide the side with some much needed psychological reinforcement. It would send down the belief that they, too, can be on the right side of remontadas. And it would instil the confidence to repeat the feat against PSG, where they need to score five goals. Here is how Barcelona can lineup against Sevilla, with fans almost inclined towards the 3-5-2 again.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s injury in warm-up scared fans across the globe. However, the German wall started the game and finished it without much trouble. While the same opposition did not ruffle too many feathers at the weekend, tomorrow may be a whole different ballgame. With Sevilla knowing that an away goal could be enough to see them through, Ter Stegen will have a big night ahead.
Ronald Araujo’s return from injury did not last long, as he was taken off once again owing to a sprain. It is unlikely that he will be risked on Wednesday.
Koeman would ideally not look to tamper around with the winning formula, moreover against the same team. Gerard Pique will the ideal option to start through the centre at the back. The World Cup winner has been a silent rock since his return. Given how much the Spaniard is usually criticized, a silent period from the media implied fantastic performances.
Oscar Mingueza will start at the right of the defence. The youngster has been wonderful defensively, with a slowly improved passing range and spatial awareness. Given Araujo’s injury, his chance seems to be set.
The Spanish duo will be complemented by Clement Lenglet, who will start at left centre-back. The Frenchman once again had a rather poor outing midweek. However being part of a working formula, the coach may not want to tamper with things.
A three man defense means a five man midfield. An utter domination of the middle of the park, while spreading the play to both wings equally. At the Camp Nou again, that will be the norm.
Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba will continue as wingbacks on the right and left sides, respectively. With the three-person defence, they will have their defensive duties cut short. Once again, as on Saturday, they will look to be the threat on the wings.
Sergio Busquets will continue as the anchor, following up a textbook performance against the same opposition. The Spanish International was crucial in recovering the ball for the Catalans whilst also opening up latent channels in the attack.
Frenkie de Jong has now earned the right to be placed at the elite class of midfielders at the moment. The renewed version of the Dutchman has been almost unstoppable for oppositions. He will again start on Wednesday given the weight of the clash.
Pedri was supposedly ruled out for 2 weeks, however, through a miracle, he is back training with the group within 48 hours! The player is determined to participate in the game against Sevilla, knowing well the weight riding on it. Pedri’s attitude just cannot be faulted. If at all the Canary Islander is indeed fit, he will return to his permanent starting spot.
The front two in attack combined beautifully to score the opening goal on Saturday, and nothing will change for the Cup game.
Ousmane Dembele‘s pace was one of Sevilla’s biggest troubles at the Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan. The Frenchman destroyed the high line of Lopetegui’s side. He will undoubtedly start.
Lionel Messi has always been Sevilla’s Achilles heel. The Red-and-white of Seville are the Argentine’s favourite target, and he added a goal and an assist to that amazing tally at the weekend. The side seemed to have no answers to the Catalan captain’s guile and genius. If Leo turns it on again, Barcelona are surely going straight into the final.
Dembele · Messi
Alba · Pedri · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Pique · Mingueza
One has to start with the man of the moment. Ilaix Moriba was given his second chance of the season midweek and responded by providing his second assist. His physicality matched the opponents like for like, and his comfort on the ball further destabilized the defence. He would be a crucial cog.
Antoine Griezmann was once again not used in the 2-0 win, however, any desperate situation demanding a goal could see the Frenchman subbed in.
Martin Braithwaite could be an asset on the night, too, as his growing chemistry seems to be reaping rewards. The Dane has evolved into much more than a traditional no. 9, and he would be an option for the coach on the latter half.
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.