Barcelona are back in action this weekend after the international break as they get ready to host Real Betis for gameweek five of La Liga. The Catalans are on a three-game winning streak but have looked shaky on both ends of the pitch.
Thankfully, though, Barça were mostly unharmed during the break, with only Ilkay Gundogan picking up a knock during Germany’s 2-1 win against France. The German does not have an injury, however, and will likely be a part of the hosting squad.
Betis, on the other hand, have multiple players injured, with Youssouf Sabaly, William Carvalho, Claudio Bravo, Andres Guardado, Aitor Ruibal, and even Nabil Fekir out of action.
They have won two of their opening quartet of games, with the only loss coming against Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Club in an enthralling 4-2 showing.
Currently sitting 7th in the table, Manuel Pellegrini’s side will almost definitely prove to be a nuisance for Xavi, who must make appropriate changes to his team to juice out the three points.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has carried on his form from previous season into this, and has held the fort brilliantly with the defence looking rather unstable. He will continue in goal, hoping to keep his third clean sheet of the season.
With Ronald Araujo still injured, Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde will retain their spots in central defence. The latter has been in exceptional form, and could cement his spot as a starter over the Dane soon.
Joao Cancelo came on for his debut against Osasuna, creating a brilliant chance for Robert Lewandowski. He should be given his first start in the Blaugrana, with Alejandro Balde holding width on the left side of the back-four.
The midfield is where it gets tricky for Xavi. Pedri is sidelined for another few weeks, while Ilkay Gundogan will likely not be risked, either, as confirmed by Xavi. That leaves the team with three fit midfielders, all of whom will start this game in the middle of the park.
Gavi scored for Spain against Cyprus and should be given the keys as the most advanced midfielder tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Frenkie de Jong has been in incredible form since the season started, and is an undisputed starter for Xavi. With a goal to his name this season, he will round off the midfield with Oriol Romeu acting as the defensive midfielder.
Lamine Yamal has started the last three games for Barcelona, and also participated in the international break with Spain, scoring a goal on his debut against Georgia. He cannot be expected to play multiple games in a week at 16, though, and Xavi will likely rest him this weekend.
In his place, one can expect Raphinha to take over the reins as the right-winger. The Brazilian missed two games after picking up a red card against Getafe, and missed the subsequent two games.
He will be looking to make an impact against Real Betis in the hopes of earning back his starting spot in the team.
With no first-team midfielder available for selection, Xavi could be expected to drop the midfield box system and revert to a traditional 4-3-3. Ferran Torres should be given the nod on the left wing in this case, with the Spaniard in impressive form.
Robert Lewandowski will be the final piece of the puzzle, spearheading the team as the centre-forward. The Pole scored the winning penalty against Osasuna but needs to pick up his form with the team struggling for goals.
Ferran · Lewandowski · Raphinha
de Jong · Romeu · Gavi
Balde · Christensen · Kounde · Cancelo
Depending on his fitness, Gundogan could be asked to come on to maintain control in the team. The veteran has adapted well to life at Barcelona, and is already an essential part of Xavi’s team.
Joao Felix and Lamine Yamal are options on the offensive front. The former came on for his debut against Osasuna, but is far from match sharp due to a lack of minutes across the last few months.
Xavi is evidently a huge fan of Barça Atletic midfielder Marc Casado, who will almost definitely make the bench. His poise in midfield could come in handy against Betis, who will be looking to control the centre of the park.