Coming off a dramatic win against Osasuna, courtesy of a first goal from Vitor Roque, Barcelona will now travel to the Basque capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz to take on Deportivo Alaves for matchday 23 of La Liga.
The Catalans now have the pressure of ending the season in the best way possible after Xavi’s announced his decision to leave the club at the end of the season.
While hopes of winning the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup have evaporated, Barcelona are still in the race for the Champions League, even if that dream is farfetched, and mathematically a part of La Liga’s title race with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Girona.
They do have yet another new injury, though. The ever-reliable Ferran Torres picked up a knock against Osasuna in the first-half, and is expected to be out for at least a month.
With just two first-team forwards in the team available, we expect Xavi to make some changes to the starting lineup, possibly even bringing back the three-at-the-back formation he used against Real Madrid.
Defence: Kounde starts in a trident
The bad news is, Marc-Andre ter Stegen is still injured. The good news is, he is expected to be back next weekend against Granada. Until then, Inaki Pena will start in goal tomorrow, hoping to make possibly his last game as Barça’s #1 memorable.
As mentioned above, we expect Xavi to lineup his side with a back-three, starring Ronald Araujo at the heart of it all as the central centre-back.
Jules Kounde will understandably take his role on the right side, which will also give him enough room to push forward and combine with the right wing-back.
Since Pau Cubarsi started against Osasuna, it is highly likely that Andreas Christensen returns to the fold for this game, this time playing on the left side of the trident.
Midfield: Fort, Cancelo wingbacks
This back-three could be accompanied by a five-man midfield, featuring a wingback on either side. Joao Cancelo should be given the license to start on the left after his brilliant assist for Roque during midweek. On the other side, we expect Hector Fort to make an appearance.
Xavi has made one major shift recently in midfield, playing Ilkay Gundogan in an advanced role. The German is expected to be a part of this setup, but should be rested if the chance comes up as he has played the most minutes of any outfielder at Barcelona this season.
Frenkie de Jong and Pedri are in contention to make up the rest of the midfield trident. The duo played slightly deeper to control the game, giving Gundogan the move upwards.
Attack: Roque-Lewandowski twin strikers
First things first, Lamine Yamal, at 16, has played nearly 400 minutes across the last four games, and should be rested before Barcelona hit the Ansu Fati shaped past again.
With that in mind, we expect Xavi to award Vitor Roque with a start tomorrow after his goal against Osasuna. The Brazilian will start up-top, partnering Robert Lewandowski in a two-man striker system.
With license to roam, Roque could move to the left while Cancelo joins the midfield and Gundogan attacks the box. The former Manchester City-man has proven to be a reliable scoring option and is finally getting to play that role for Barcelona, as well.
Fermin Lopez was one of Barcelona’s best forwards in midweek, but was substituted in the second-half for Roque. Should he not start in the first place, we expect him to definitely come on at some point.
Another obvious entrance could be that of Lamine Yamal, who has been the magnet for the attack over the last couple of weeks.
Oriol Romeu has been putting in decent cameos recently, and could be asked to come on to provide defensive solidity.
Meanwhile, it seems unlikely that Christensen will be able to play the entire 90 minutes, which is where Pau Cubarsi could be very important for Barcelona.