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Two key battles to look out for tonight in Barcelona vs Eintracht Frankfurt



Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Barcelona take on Eintracht Frankfurt later this evening, hoping to secure a win that could seal a ticket to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League.

Coming on the back of a 2-3 win over Levante on the weekend, Xavi and co. will be motivated to grab the game by the neck from the get-go.

Their performances have been far from ideal since the international break got over even though they have secure two wins out of three.

However, the Catalans were far from their best in the first leg. They lacked the creativity going forward while losing multiple duels in the middle of the park. Eventually, a super-sub appearance from Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele helped them secure a 1-1 draw.

The hosts must brush up on their weaknesses if they are to emerge victorious this time around. And here, we will take a look at two key player battles that could go a long way in determining the outcome of this tie.

Ronald Araujo vs Filip Kostic

Filip Kostic caused tandem for the Barcelona defence in the first leg, making several dangerous runs across the left flank and producing some killer crosses into the box.

Ronald Araujo was the one tasked to defend the Serbian on the flanks. But the defender looked extremely uncomfortable dealing with the attacker’s sheer pace and ability to glide past the opposition.

Once again the favourite to deputise for Dani Alves and Sergino Dest, Araujo cannot afford another disappointing performance against Kostic, as it could risk Barcelona conceding a goal that would give Frankfurt the leverage to just sit back and defend in a deep block.

Should Dest not be fit enough to start, Araujo would be the go-to for Xavi at right-back, while Eric Garcia and Eric Garcia are expected to fill in the heart of the defence.

There has been speculation surrounding Araujo’s potential contract extension. So an impressive defensive shift against Frankfurt could be an ideal way to announce himself, as the 23-year-old looks to become a lynchpin for the Barcelona backline in the years to come.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Martin Hinteregger

Another player that struggled in the first leg was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A lot was expected from the Gabonese international upon his return to Germany, but the forward could only muster 34 touches while losing possession 17 times.

Aubameyang was defended expertly by Martin Hinteregger. The Austrian international looked at his usual best, making countless interceptions, blocks and tackles that minimised the overall output of the Barça frontline.

This evening, Aubameyang must prevail in the Hinteregger test if Barcelona are to have any hopes of breaching the Frankfurt defence and emerge victorious in the tie.

Xavi, though, does have a fair share of alternatives in the attack, including the cult hero Luuk de Jong. Memphis Depay has made his recovery just in time for Thursday’s clash as well, offering the Barcelona coach some much-needed quality on the bench.

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