After edging out Sevilla 1-0 at the weekend, FC Barcelona are set for another daunting challenge ahead as they take on Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final encounter.
The match will be played at the iconic Deutsche Bank Park, a stadium notorious for its relentless and overwhelming support, minus the hostility of the Galatasaray-esque fans.
Heading into this game, Xavi has been dealt with a major selection dilemma, with the likes of Memphis Depay, Sergino Dest and Davi Alves already ruled out due to either injury or ineligibility.
With Frankfurt known for its attacking prowess and unpredictability, it will be imperative for Xavi to pick the right eleven if his side are to avoid any upset this midweek.
And here, we will take a look at three lineup decisions the Spaniard has to make heading into this exciting encounter in the Europa League.
Adama Traore vs Ousmane Dembele
It is safe to assume that the January additions in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres are guaranteed starters in two of the three attacking slots available in the Barcelona lineup.
The duo has been in superb form, with Aubameyang, in particular, offering the much-needed goalscoring prowess in the final third. Ferran has impressed a lot with his positioning sense and work ethic, thus adding a new dimension to the Barça frontline.
The right-wing position, however, will be contested, with Ousmane Dembele and Adama Traore competing for a spot.
Adama Traore has settled in brilliantly since his return to Camp Nou in January. He has bagged four assists in all competitions. HIs contributions in the Europa League cannot be understated at all, with the attacker racking up two assists in the important win over Napoli.
At the same time, Adama has lacked prominence in recent weeks. He is yet to score on his return for Barca and has featured in a total of 25 minutes of league football since the start of March.
Dembele, on the other hand, is currently one of the most in-form players in Europe. He has been involved in nine goals in his last ten competitive outings, including two assists against Real Madrid in El Clasico.
Dembele has not featured prominently in the UEFA Europa League but he has played in Germany in the past, even scoring one goal and two assists in his three past encounters against Frankfurt. He is the man in form and the potential difference-maker this midweek.
BU Verdict: Ousmane Dembele
Frenkie de Jong vs Gavi
Moving into midfield, Xavi may have a tough time deciding between Frenkie de Jong and Gavi.
Each player offers a unique skill-set to the table that could benefit Barça in its own unique way. For de Jong, he has been the first-choice option for Xavi, alongside Sergio Busquets and Pedri.
He is arguably one of the most improved Barcelona players this year, offering a greater influence in midfield with his control of possession and the unique ability to offer numerical advantage in the final third.
However, Xavi can’t easily overlook Gavi, who is a nifty player capable of squeezing through tight spaces and offering the attacking impetus. He is also much faster in his movements, which may not bode well for a Eintracht Frankfurt side heavily reliant on the second line of press.
Having starred in wins over Sevilla and Galatasaray, de Jong remains the undisputed favourite to start. But Gavi can perhaps have greater influence as he can easily drift past the likes of Kristijan Jakic and Djibril Sow, two holding midfielders for Eintracht that are effective, but slow.
BU Verdict: Gavi
Ronald Araujo vs Oscar Mingueza
Another potential dilemma for Xavi lies in the right-back position as Dani Alves will be ineligible to feature in this tie whereas Sergino Dest has been ruled out due to injury.
It leaves Xavi with no choice but to opt for a makeshift option at right-back. The two players competing for the role are Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza.
Araujo is the undisputed favourite as he is considered pivotal to Barcelona’s defensive setup. The youngster has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence under Xavi, impressing the onlookers with his physical and aerial prowess, coupled with his defensive commitment.
Oscar Mingueza, on the other hand, is a far more versatile defender and one could argue he is a more natural option at right-back. He can offer a bit of balance to the team, when it comes to drawing a line between attack and defence.
That said, Mingueza has barely made an impact under Xavi and has fallen behind in the pecking order. Many even expect him to be offloaded in the coming summer, with Xavi not rating him highly enough.
A centre-back by trade, Araujo has played at right-back in the past. Although he is not natural to the position, his presence in the side could be a good thing for Barça as Eintracht Frankfurt like to attack from the left-hand side, using the proficiency of a certain Filip Kostic.
The Serbian international is one of the best crossers in world football, and he is expected to cause a myriad of problems to the Barcelona defence this midweek.
However, having someone like Araujo could help Xavi mitigate the issue and minimise Kostic’s impact on the flanks, even though it would come at the expense of a lack of attacking forays down the wings.
BU Verdict: Ronald Araujo