After a hard-fought win over Atlético Madrid to extend their lead at the top of the La Liga table, Barcelona have made the long trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the 2023 Spanish Super Cup as they search for their first trophy of the season.
The new format introduced a few years ago has four teams playing in a Final Four format, with two semi-finals and a title game to be played on Sunday. Barça will face Real Betis on Thursday and meet the winner of Wednesday’s semi between Real Madrid and Valencia, so the chance of an El Clásico to decide the title is very much alive.
But getting past Betis won’t be an easy task. Manuel Pellegrini’s side has been a very tough opponent for the last couple of seasons, and they’re unbeaten since returning from the World Cup and ready to pull off the upset. Here’s how we think Barça will line up on Thursday.
Because of the long trip to Saudi Arabia and the short turnaround between the semi-final and Sunday’s title game, I am in favor of seeing Xavi Hernández rotating his team and saving a few of his best players for the final.
At the back, resting Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde seems like a smart idea, and Jordi Alba will probably return to the left-back role after serving a suspension against Atlético Madrid. Sergi Roberto could come back at right-back, and Eric García should play alongside Andreas Christensen in the middle. No Marcos Alonso, please!
Because Xavi still thinks of Sergio Busquets as a key piece of his system, a potential rotation would mean the captain likely gets saved for the final, so we’ll probably see the much more exciting and dynamic trio of Frenkie De Jong, Gavi and Pedri in midfield.
Franck Kessie might find himself in the lineup if Xavi decides to go with him against a physical Betis midfield, but it doesn’t feel like the Ivorian is a real option to start in bigger games as of now.
Robert Lewandowski will be allowed to play the semi-final and a potential final as his ban only applies to La Liga matches, so the Pole is guarantee to play this one from the start. My rotation idea includes a rest for Ousmane Dembélé, with Raphinha ready to come in on the right.
The left wing spot is up for grabs with Ansu Fati in fine form and Ferran Torres always a significant part of the plans, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either in the XI on Thursday.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Christensen, Eric, Alba; Gavi, De Jong, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Real Betis? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!