Barcelona will decide their European fate this season when they welcome Eintracht Frankurt to Camp Nou for the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal matchup.
The tie is beautifully poised after last week’s dramatic 1-1 draw in Germany, with Frankfurt proving very tough to beat at home and giving themselves a real shot at a big upset against the hottest team in the continent.
Xavi Hernández’s men are unbeaten in their last 15 games in all competitions and are big favorites to win the Europa League, but reaching the semi-final won’t be easy. Let’s see how Barça could line up for Thursday’s big game.
There is a huge question mark regarding the defense for this one. As of this writing, Sergiño Dest and Gerard Piqué are still doubtful to return from injury and are both unlikely to start, and with Dani Alves unavailable Xavi has quite the headache when it comes to the backline.
In theory the combination is simple: Ronald Araujo at right-back, Eric García and Clément Lenglet in the middle and Jordi Alba at left-back. But Lenglet did not cover himself in glory in his short stint on the pitch against Levante on Sunday and has been largely out of Xavi’s plans over the last couple of months, so the Frenchman might miss out. If he does the remaining option is Óscar Mingueza, who would come in at right-back to move Araujo back to the middle alongside the in-form Eric.
Barça’s midfield struggled for 60 minutes against Levante then had a huge injection of pace, skill and creativity when Pedri and Gavi came off the bench, with Pedri looking especially amazing and proving he might just be Barça’s best player right now.
Pedri starts on Thursday, most likely alongside his usual partners in Sergio Busquets and Frenkie De Jong. But Gavi made a real case to play from the start in this one as well, so it is possible that Xavi drops either the captain or the Dutchman in favor of the young Spaniard.
Barça’s front three has easily separated itself in the last several weeks: Ousmane Dembélé, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres are the undisputed starters up front as of now, with Memphis Depay in and out with injuries at the moment on top of his poor play as well as Adama Traoré’s disappointing dip in form.
What that means for the summer plans and the need for reinforcements in attack is a conversation for another time. The present is the Dembélé-Auba-Ferran trio, and all three must be at their very best against a well-organized Frankfurt defense.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Araujo, Eric, Lenglet, Alba; F. De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Aubameyang, Ferran (4-3-3)
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