Sergi Roberto has been the preferred right-back for a while now, but has Nélson Semedo finally overtaken him?
It was Roberto who started in Barcelona’s 5-1 triumph over Real Madrid, and their 6-1 demolition of Sevilla in the Copa del Rey, perhaps the biggest matches the team had played in domestic competition before the previous meeting with Madrid in the cup. For that match, Semedo did start, but there was an argument that it was simply due to rotation. After all, Jasper Cillessen and Malcom, to name a few, were also given starts. It was the first leg of the cup tie, after all, in a period in which the manager is looking to rotate players.
In the UEFA Champions League group stage, Roberto started all the matches except for the ones in which he was injured. And yet, when Barcelona played out a 0-0 draw away to Olympique Lyonnais yesterday, it was Semedo, not Roberto, who started at right-back. On the other hand, Roberto did start - this time, in midfield, in place for the injured Arthur.
When Arthur returns to the lineup, will Roberto retake his place at right-back? Or is Semedo’s presence at right-back in the last two high-profile matches proof that he’s now the starter?
Semedo has put in good performances lately, and could be cementing his starting spot. On the other hand, Roberto has a long track record and Ernesto Valverde fully trusts him. Perhaps the two will be competing with each other until the end of the season. In any case, it’s nice to have two players who want to make the case that they deserve to start, and that on occasion, can be called upon to play together as well.