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Xavi has two major selection dilemmas ahead of Barcelona vs Napoli – report



Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Barcelona take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League clash in less than 48 hours. Having secured a 1-1 draw away in Italy, the Catalans are in a must-win situation ahead of the game, although they will have the home advantage.

While they did dominate the proceedings last month in Naples, the game will be a test of their grit as they face several hurdles ahead of the key clash.

According to reports from Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona manager Xavi is faced with two key dilemmas ahead of the game concerning his starting lineup.

Defence: The first dilemma

As relayed by the Spanish publication, Xavi’s first big dilemma ahead of the clash against the Italians is around the central defence. In fact, it is not the first time Xavi has been faced with the same question.

Ronald Araujo was suspended for Barcelona’s recent clash against Mallorca and will return to the starting lineup tomorrow as the first-choice centre-back.

Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen’s fixed roles at right-back and defensive midfield, moreover, leave the manager with two options for the remaining defensive slot.

Pau Cubarsi or Inigo Martinez – that is the question Xavi must answer by tomorrow night as he decides his starting XI against Napoli. The veteran got the nod in the first leg but also made the fatal error that cost Barcelona the win.

That, combined with Cubarsi’s excellent form in recent games, might just give the edge to the 17-year-old.

The midfield dilemma

Pedri and Frenkie de Jong are unavailable. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

While the defensive question is prompted by a relative surplus of options, Xavi’s dilemma in midfield is the polar opposite. Having lost Pedri and Frenkie de Jong to injury against Athletic Club, he has to tweak the setup to fill the void left by the creative duo’s injury.

Andreas Christensen and Ilkay Gundogan are assured starting places in the middle of the park, leaving Oriol Romeu, Fermin Lopez and Sergi Roberto as options for the remaining spots.

The first decision that Xavi must make, thus, is whether to deploy four midfielders with a false winger or a pure winger on the left at the cost of a midfield presence.

If the manager opts to proceed with four midfielders, Lopez and Roberto would be well-placed to start. Else, Raphinha or Vitor Roque could start on the left wing with either Roberto or Lopez joining forces with Christensen and Gundogan in midfield.

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