The biggest game of Barcelona's season happens this Sunday at Camp Nou, when the Blaugrana face Espanyol in what promises to be a very, very tough Catalan Derby with huge title implications. A win virtually guarantees Barça's La Liga trophy, and that could even officially happen if certain scenarios come to fruition.
Luis Enrique doesn't have to think much when selecting his team. The players had a great week of training, a few days off to recover their bodies, and will arrive at Camp Nou 100% fit to face their local rivals. Three straight victories and four good performances in a row mean Barça is back to normal, and that has a lot to do with the Gala XI.
During the mini-slump that cost the giant domestic lead and the Champions League, playing the best eleven players without rotating was a desperate move. The entire team was low in confidence, the best bench players were injured, and the few that came in didn't do much to contribute. Now that the slump is over, there is no need to rotate. Without the Champions League to play, Barça has a full week to rest and prepare for the next Liga game, and the classic starting lineup is always ready.
There is only one change to the usual league starters: Claudio Bravo is injured and likely out for the season, and Ter Stegen will come in for the last two league games and the Copa del Rey Final. The German will be huge to help Barça keep possession at the back against Espanyol's high press, and his passing will be key in the game.
Dani Alves is a big-game player, and should start. Piqué and Mascherano are rested, and Jordi Alba is slowly playing better. Busquets, Rakitic and Iniesta are more important than ever. And up front, there's no choice other than the 'MSN' trio.
You know the names, and the scheme. But this is the probable starting lineup for Sunday:
Alves - Piqué - Mascherano - Alba
Rakitic - Busquets - Iniesta
Messi - Suárez - Neymar