The curse of no consistency continues to haunt Barcelona, as a win over league leaders Real Sociedad was followed up by a dismal draw at home to Valencia. The Spanish side just cannot get going in full throttle this season, a bigger speed-breaker meets every boost.
13 games into the season and the Catalans find themselves eight points behind Atletico Madrid, despite having played an extra game. Even before the halfway stage, the league seems well and truly out of hand, putting Ronald Koeman’s future in grave trouble.
It has been said before, however, it is high time that Koeman’s side steps up and finds consistency. The Dutchman has fielded dubious line-ups that have arguably lost games before they commence. His odd use of substitutions is another growing concern.
Barcelona travels away to the Jose Zorilla after three successive home games. Here is how Barcelona could line-up on Tuesday against Real Valladolid
There are very few definite starters in the current Barcelona side. Marc Andre ter Stegen is one in that elite category. Game after game, he pulls off stupendous saves that on most occasions save the Catalans anywhere between a point to three. He will be the clear winner in the battle for the starting spot.
Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo enjoyed successive starts in what was a bold decision by the manager. No doubt, it was a display of their quality and of what is to come for the club. However, there was a definite sentiment that Mingueza is a gem that needs some refinement. The first goal conceded against Valencia was a direct reflection of the defensive lack of focus.
Owing to this, Clement Lenglet could return to the starting line-up, alongside Ronald Araujo. The Uruguayan national has been a revelation this season, with his speed, composure and unique element of physicality. After scoring a goal that even the greatest of greats would be proud of, Araujo will be eager to continue his great run.
At right-back, Sergino Dest will continue to start in the absence of Sergi Roberto. The American international has replaced the fourth-captain with no void felt either in the team or amongst the fans. That, above anything, speaks volumes about his potential.
Jordi Alba will be the undisputed starter on the left. Alba has always been the key to a potent attack for Barcelona, and will undoubtedly look to continue the same. Nevertheless, being at his defensive best will count for so much of the result.
Frenkie de Jong started on the bench at the Camp Nou owing to a muscular discomfort in the weekend. However, reports state that the Dutchman is now ready to return to the line-up on Tuesday, and no doubt, Koeman will be counting on him.
Alongside de Jong, Sergio Busquets will be the first choice pairing. Recent games have seen Miralem Pjanic falling deep down the pecking order, as Busquets continues to enjoy successive starts.
Pedri, who has arguably been the brightest spot of Barcelona’s season, will be eager to get yet another start on the left-wing. The teenager provides so much more than his competitor Phillipe Coutinho and is close to being an undisputed side for the Catalans in his first season.
Lionel Messi will start on the right-wing, the position he has graced for over a decade. The Argentine could surpass Pele on the night in Jose Zorilla, and no doubt he will be gunning to take down yet another record, especially after receiving the Pichichi award yesterday.
As the attacking midfielder, one could expect Antoine Griezmann to start. The Frenchman’s finishing has raised an eyebrow or two in recent weeks. Yet, he has looked much more positive in the last few months than he has looked before. The hope for his complete integration still lives on.
Completing the line-up at centre-forward is Martin Braithwaite. Though Ronald Koeman has majorly played the Dane on the left flank, his deployment at the striker position could help stabilize the system. In a team where most players hesitate to shoot, Braithwaite remains the one hope to bring in goals.
Our predicted lineup for tonight's away fixture in Valladolid.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) December 22, 2020
What are your score predictions, cules? pic.twitter.com/8Ky2UCDrFw
Sergino Dest has been seeing plenty of game-time due to lack of options. Resting the USMNT star amidst this congested fixture list seems to be a smart thing to do. Oscar Mingueza could come late into the game to replace the former-Ajax man.
Fransisco Trincao has been a player that Koeman has repeatedly trusted off the bench. Despite not recording a ton of starts, Trincao has shown what he is capable of. One could expect him to feature for Antoine Griezmann late in the second period.
Miralem Pjanic could once again come on for Busquets, towards the latter part of the second half. The Bosnian is a potent weapon off the bench and provides a whole lot tactically in contrast to some who are just options used for rotation.
Pedri · Griezmann · Messi
de Jong · Busquets
Alba · Lenglet · Araujo · Dest
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.