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Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Shakhtar Donetsk | UEFA Champions League

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Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Wednesday night brings the return of Barcelona’s glorious football to the UEFA Champions League. The team may not be on the best of recent streaks, but one can never get enough of the Blaugranas playing on the European stage.

Xavi Hernandez’s side are looking to make the knockout stage of the competition for the first time in three years.

Wins against Royal Antwerp and Porto put them in a favourable position, but three points against Shakhtar Donetsk would be another massive step towards the goal.

The Ukrainian giants have enjoyed a mixed start to life in Europe this season, winning against Royal Antwerp but coming up short against Porto. Playing at Montjuic tomorrow, they will be carefree as the underdogs.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Shakhtar Donetsk.

A key suspension

It is not easy to leave one’s mark at a club of Barcelona’s stature. With the world’s best stars lining up to don the prestigious jersey, the standards at the Blaugrana club stand high.

Yet, if there is one player who has established himself as the essence of passion on the field, it is Gavi. With every passing game, the world witnesses more of the young starlet’s greatness and understands why he was crowned the best young player in the game not so long ago.

The 19-year-old La Masia graduate has been fundamental to Xavi Hernandez’s plans across every game this season. He has played a role in all ten of Barcelona’s league fixtures, starting eight and averaging over 75 minutes per game.

Gavi has a goal and an assist to show for in the aforementioned duration, but his contributions on the field cannot be done justice through statistics.

Gavi represents a burning desire to succeed and an undying passion for the crest. His tenacity to chase after the ball relentlessly, his constant engagement in duels, and his footballing IQ make him an irreplaceable cog.

The youngster’s absence on Wednesday night, thus, arrives as a fundamental blow to Xavi’s plans. Gavi’s silly red card against Porto sees him sit out the clash against Shakhtar Donetsk, putting pressure on the manager to work around his absence.

Oriol Romeu, Ilkay Gundogan, and Fermin Lopez are thus expected to start in midfield tomorrow, but it is safe to say that Gavi’s absence will be felt.

Treading a fine line

Fitness issues aplenty for Barcelona. (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Champions League appears to have a spell over Catalonia, for the team never appears to have a fully fit squad at this stage of the event.

Over the past two years, Barcelona’s mid-season injury crisis hit their UCL campaign hard and forced elimination in the group stages. The situation may not be as dire this year, but the sheer timing of the injury crisis is queer.

Xavi Hernandez heads into the clash against Shakhtar Donetsk tomorrow with just 12 first-team players fit. The vicious cycle of injuries leaves him without the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Jules Kounde, Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong, and Raphinha, and it does not bode well with El Clasico around the corner.

Needless to say, the manager is treading a fine line in terms of squad fitness. He has called up as many as eight academy players for the game, and it remains to see to what capacity he depends on them.

Guiu for the start?

Marc Guiu burst into stardom on Sunday night after his special debut at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys against Athletic Club

Coming on in the 80th minute, not much was expected of the La Masia protege on the night. Barcelona were struggling in front of goal, and he was the manager’s only natural No. 9 in the squad.

What Guiu did after coming on was beyond amazing. With 30 seconds under his belt, he skilfully received Joao Felix’s through ball and found himself up against Spain’s No.1 Unai Simon.

Without an ounce of fear, he powerfully struck the ball beyond the shot-stopper. His second touch as a senior player had secured three points for the Catalans.

Robert Lewandowski is unavailable for tomorrow’s clash due to injury. The big question running through the minds of fans and the media, thus, is whether Xavi will take the big gamble with Guiu.

At just 17 years of age, the youngster has never seen such a spotlight before. The sudden burst of attention will undoubtedly put him under pressure if he is to play tomorrow, and how he handles the same will be interesting to watch.

Joao Felix and Lamine Yamal would appear to be guaranteed starters against Shakhtar on Wednesday night. Will Ferran Torres or Marc Guiu join them in the final third? Only time will tell.

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