Barcelona football returns to our lives after 300 years of international break (actually, it was two weeks but it feels a LOT longer), and the Catalan giants will play at Camp Nou against Deportivo Alavés on Saturday hoping to retain their perfect record and stay at the top of La Liga.
Manager Luis Enrique has a bit of a selection headache for this weekend. With sixteen players returning from international duty and captain Andrés Iniesta still not 100% in his recovery from injury, as well as the Champions League opener against Celtic just three days after the league match, Enrique is likely to make a big rotation of the starting lineup to start the European Cup with the strongest possible lineup.
There are many options and doubts, but here's my prediction for Lucho's starting eleven on Saturday:
Vidal - Piqué - Umtiti - Digne
Denis Suarez - Busquets - Rafinha
Arda Turan - Luis Suárez - Neymar
Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto played big minutes for Spain last week, so it's natural that both full-backs are changed for this game. Aleix Vidal and Lucas Digne are great going forward, which is useful against an Alavés side that is most likely to park the bus for 90 minutes. Sammy Umtiti stayed on the bench in both France matches, and he's likely to start again to continue his great early form on defense. Piqué or Mascherano will partner him, but Gerard played on Monday, had more time to rest and is likely to play this one.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets will always be there, so we won't even discuss him. Rafinha Alcântara was one of the few to stay in Barcelona during the break, and with both Iniesta and André Gomes recovering from injuries, the Brazilian will surely start. Ivan Rakitic played a lot already, and he could be rested with the Celtic game in mind, opening the door for Denis Suarez to stay in the starting lineup.
The attacking trio is most definitely the toughest part to predict. Besides Arda Turan, who's in great form and rested during the international break, all other forwards are question marks to start on Saturday. Messi is still doubtful because of injury, Neymar and Suárez arrived late from South America, and Paco Alcácer will have trained only twice before facing Alavés. Since Neymar and Luis are insane and want to play all the time, they're likely to start, especially Ney who's yet to play for Barça this season. If Suárez starts, either Paco or Messi (or both) will come on in the second half for the Uruguayan.
What's your prediction for the starting lineup against Alavés, Blaugranes?