Barcelona roared back into form this midweek when they swept aside Villarreal 3-0 at Camp Nou. But they will be dealt with a tricky test later this evening as they take on Athletic Club.
It is a must-win game for the Catalans if they are to keep up with Real Madrid at the top of the league table. And despite the strong showing in midweek, there are still problem areas Barça would need to fix if they are to dominate Athletic tomorrow.
With that in mind, Barça Universal takes a look at three changes Xavi could possibly make ahead of his side’s encounter against the Basque outfit.
Ousmane Dembele for Ferran Torres
Ferran Torres has been in excellent form lately. The attacker made an impression coming on as a substitute in the defeat to Real Madrid, notably scoring the goal in the second half. He continued that run by emerging as one of the best performers in the win over Villarreal.
Torres’ performances have not gone unnoticed, and it is evident that Xavi trusts the Spaniard now. However, with the Bayern Munich game just around the corner, the Barcelona coach could fancy a change on the left flank.
The change could see Ferran return to the bench, with Ousmane Dembele returning to the fold. It will give Xavi an excuse to give Ferran a breather, but most importantly, giving Dembele an opportunity to return to form following a series of disappointing performances lately.
Eric Garcia for Marcos Alonso
The centre-back area has been proven to be a weakness for Barcelona in recent weeks, especially with Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen out injured.
In their absence, Xavi has had to employ the likes of Marcos Alonso and Gerard Pique. Alonso even featured as a centre-back against Villarreal in midweek. However, the former Chelsea fullback was not particularly impressive as he struggled in 1v1 situations.
It is apparent that Alonso is not a proper centre-back. And that could pave the way for Xavi to reinstate Eric Garcia at centre-back, partnering with Jules Kounde at the heart of the four-man backline.
Garcia’s return to form could go a long way in helping Barcelona solidify their core of defence ahead of the Bayern Munich encounter.
Alejandro Balde for Jordi Alba
In light of the frequency of matches, Xavi could be compelled to make one more change in the starting eleven tomorrow. The ageing Jordi Alba remains the prime candidate to be called back into the bench, potentially to give him a breather for the Bayern Munich contest.
Alejandro Balde is likely going to replace him at left-back. The youngster was left out on the bench against Villarreal for the first time since matchday 1, so it will not come as a surprise to see him returning to the starting eleven tomorrow.
Balde’s pace is going to be an asset for Barcelona in their quest to stretch the Athletic Club defence. He may even provide excellent combination play with Dembele in the wider areas of the pitch, adding more elements to Barça’s attacking play.