Barcelona return to action on Monday in La Liga against Real Valladolid after the international break and will be hoping to maintain the superb form they have shown in 2021 which has helped rekindle their title hopes.
Ronald Koeman will also be boosted by the return from injury of some key players. Ronald Araujo is fit again, Gerard Pique isn’t too far away, and Sergi Roberto is expected to be ready for Monday’s match.
Yet the return to fitness of the three defenders will also give Koeman something of a selection headache. The Dutchman has used midfielder Frenkie de Jong as one of his three center-backs in recent games, but the 23-year-old can now revert back to his more preferred position.
If De Jong does, as expected, return to the midfield then Koeman must decide who drops out. It’s difficult to guess quite what Koeman will do but one player who may find himself on the bench again is Antoine Griezmann.
Sergio Busquets, Pedri, and Lionel Messi all look guaranteed starters, while Ousmane Dembele has been in good form this season and looks to have more chance of playing in attack than Griezmann.
There’s always a chance that De Jong could continue in a more defensive role. If he does then it’s probably bad news for Oscar Mingueza. The 21-year-old has done a great job after coming into the team this season but is the least experienced defender.
Of course there’s always a chance that De Jong could be given a breather on Monday. The Dutchman has been an ever-present in La Liga this season and also played all three of the Netherlands’ World Cup qualifiers over the international break. He’s also just one booking away from a one-match ban and Koeman won’t want him suspended for El Clasico.
Koeman could always switch formation again now his defensive injuries have eased but that seems unlikely given Barca have looked good using three center-backs and the change in tactics has delivered good results.
All of which means that Koeman has plenty to ponder regarding his team selection ahead of his team’s final 10 La Liga games of the season. It’s a nice problem to have of course and means the Barca teamsheet for Monday’s match should make for interesting reading.