Barcelona’s European fate this season is on the line on Thursday when the Blaugrana travel to Turkey for the second leg of their Europa League Round of 16 tie against Galatasaray.
These two teams played a tough, hard-fought game at Camp Nou last week and no goals were scored by either side, leaving everything to be decided at the home of the Turkish giants.
Barça rebounded from an average performance against Galatasaray with a sensational win over Osasuna on Sunday, and they’ll be hoping to return from Turkey having booked a place in the quarterfinals and gained some more confidence ahead of a huge El Clásico this weekend. Let’s see how Barça could line up on Thursday.
Xavi Hernández isn’t expected to make any major changes for this one even with the trip to Madrid just three days later, and will be counting on his squad’s depth to put out two really good teams in both matches.
The defense will see two changes from the Osasuna match: Dani Alves can’t play in the Europa League so Sergiño Dest takes over at right-back, while Ronald Araujo will return to the middle of the backline most likely in Eric García’s place. Barça haven’t conceded in their last two games and will make their jobs a lot easier on Thursday if they can keep a third consecutive clean sheet.
Xavi continues to use his midfield options well, constantly rotating between a stacked group of players and using several combinations that have for the most part played very well together. Even Riqui Puig got some minutes at the weekend, scoring a goal that will do him a world of good.
But Puig isn’t starting on Thursday, and Frenkie De Jong will return to the lineup after being rested against Osasuna. Sergio Busquets will most likely retain his place, and the only real question is whether or not Xavi decides to give Pedri a rest in favor of Gavi, who missed last week’s game through suspension. Pedri is the only midfielder yet to be rotated out of the team in recent weeks, and he could use at least 45 minutes on the bench ahead of the Clásico.
Barça’s front three was excellent against Osasuna after a different forward combination did not play very well against Galatasaray last Thursday. Ousmane Dembélé adds something unique to the attack and it’s hard to see him out of the team at the moment, and the same can be said for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has quickly established himself as the best striker on the squad.
Adama Traoré didn’t play at all on Sunday and has a real shot at returning to the team if Xavi decides to save Dembélé for the Bernabéu. Aubameyang and Ferran Torres will most likely keep their places, so the only real doubt is which of his two speedy, skilled wingers Xavi will choose for this one.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Piqué, Alba; F. De Jong, Busquets, Gavi; Dembélé, Aubameyang, Ferran (4-3-3)
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