As Barcelona get set to begin their UEFA Champions League journey later tonight against Royal Antwerp, manager Xavi Hernandez has some major decisions to make with regard to team selection.
The 43-year-old, in particular, has a major dilemma when choosing his attacking options considering that each of Robert Lewandowski, Joao Felix, Ferran Torres, and Raphinha scored a goal during the last game against Real Betis.
Meanwhile, Lamine Yamal has been one of Barça’s most impactful players this season and cannot be ignored either, creating a quandary for the gaffer.
Raphinha gets a reward?
Considering how well Lewandowski, Ferran, and Felix played against Real Betis it would be understandable if Xavi opted to stick with the same frontline and not change anything.
However, SPORT’s Jordi Gil is reporting that the Barcelona manager is considering handing Raphinha a start tonight against Royal Antwerp as a reward.
The 26-year-old began the season as the first-choice on the right wing, but his sending-off against Getafe on the opening day meant that he missed the next couple of matches, allowing Yamal to usurp the position.
Even after the Brazilian’s suspension was over, Xavi persisted with Yamal against Osasuna before the international break and started Torres on the right this past weekend.
Despite having lost the starting berth, to a 16-year-old no less, Raphinha has displayed a good attitude and professionalism, impressing the technical staff.
As such Xavi is considering rewarding him with a starting place against the Belgian champions.
In search of his first Champions League goal
If he starts, Raphinha will be itching to get his first-ever goal in the UEFA Champions League for Barcelona.
The former Leeds United winger played five times in the competition for the Blaugrana last season but failed to find the target even once and will be keen on setting that right against Royal Antwerp at Montjuic tonight.
Raphinha did score for Barça in their UEFA Europa League knockout playoffs against Manchester United but will be eager to get off the mark in Europe’s premier competition.