Three lineup dilemmas Xavi faces ahead of Levante vs Barcelona
Barcelona will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run in La Liga to 15 games when they lock horns with Levante on Sunday night.
Following their narrow win over Sevilla, the Catalans made it 14 league games without a defeat, while also moving up to the second spot in the standings. They will want to build on that run and bounce back from their 1-1 draw in the Europa League quarter-final first-leg tie against Eintracht Frankfurt.
While it is a vital game, Xavi Hernandez will also have an eye on the second leg fixture against Eintracht next midweek. And here, we will take a look at three crucial lineup decisions he has to make for this encounter.
Luuk de Jong vs Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
There is no doubt that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been a fine addition to this Barcelona roster. The ex-Arsenal captain has netted nine goals in 13 games and has made a telling impact.
However, he has not been rotated enough by Xavi and that might affect his performances. He had a subdued game against Sevilla while his display against Frankfurt was one of the worst since joining the club.
With the second leg around the corner, a rest for Aubameyang could benefit the player and the team. Instead, Luuk de Jong, who has returned to the squad after testing negative for coronavirus, could be handed a start
The Dutchman has not played much of late, but had proven himself to be a valuable squad option when given a chance earlier this year. So, handing him an opportunity and resting Auba could work well for the Blaugrana.
BU Verdict: Luuk de Jong
Nico Gonzalez vs Pedri
Another player who could do with a breather, in light of the injury issues he has suffered earlier this season, is Pedri. The 19-year-old missed almost the entirety of the first half of the campaign but has been in superlative form since returning.
It has made it difficult for Xavi to bench the Spaniard. But with the season in its final stretch and Barcelona in with a shout to win the Europa League, Pedri needs to be looked after carefully.
Considering the options that Xavi has in midfield, resting Pedri against Levante would be the right way to go about things. Nico Gonzalez has not had a lot of starting opportunities of late but has made valuable contributions each time he has stepped on the pitch.
Indeed, Nico has not started a league game since January and has only played 30 minutes of football in his last four league games. The encounter against Levante might be a good opportunity to get him back involved in the thick of things.
BU Verdict: Nico Gonzalez
Clement Lenglet vs Ronald Araujo
Clement Lenglet has been reduced to a bit-part player under Xavi and has hardly been utilised recently. But the Frenchman got a chance against Frankfurt after Gerard Pique had to be withdrawn with an injury and he made a solid impression.
So, Xavi should consider handing him a starting berth on Sunday and give Ronald Araujo a break. The Uruguayan has been playing relentlessly since the international break and can do with a rest before the vital fixtures versus Frankfurt and Real Sociedad.
With Dani Alves eligible to play, he can occupy the right-back slot, where Araujo started in midweek. Eric Garcia has done enough to justify a spot in the backline. Swapping Araujo for Lenglet, who looked good on Thursday, should be a logical move.
BU Verdict: Clement Lenglet