Barcelona made a successful debut in this year’s edition of the Spanish Super Cup with a solid win over Osasuna in the semi-final, and the Blaugrana now face their biggest rivals with the Supercopa crown on the line for the second year in a row as the latest edition of El Clásico takes place this Sunday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Barça played one of their best games in months against the side from Pamplona, and even though the Blaugrana still have a lot to improve they showed positive signs with their defending and their ability to win by more than one goal for the first time in literally four months.
Now they meet a Madrid team hungry for revenge after last year’s Supercopa loss in which they were thoroughly dismantled by Barça, but Los Blancos are stronger this time around and can be considered favorites to win this one.
Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Sunday’s battle.
Xavi has been mostly successful in his coaching career against Madrid, with very good gameplans for El Clásico that revolve around a solid defensive structure and quick, efficient attacking moves that usually result in early goals that force Real to be more open and play right into Barça’s hands.
A big part is the defensive play of the ‘BACK’ quartet, especially with Ronald Araujo at right-back to defend against Madrid’s Vinicius Junior. That formula has worked literally every time, so Xavi will no doubt trust the Uruguayan monster to do the job again. That would move Jules Kounde to the middle to partner Andreas Christensen, with Alejandro Balde completing the backline on the left.
There’s a small chance João Cancelo receives the medical green light but it’s very unlikely that the Portuguese plays from the start, so the starters will be Xavi’s favorite defensive lineup from last season on Sunday.
Another part of the successful formula for Clásicos is Xavi’s use of a four-man midfield to create more defensive solidity and have more control of possession in the middle, and Pedri’s fantastic 30-minute cameo against Osasuna in his return from injury makes it even more likely that we’ll see a four-man midfield on Sunday.
Pedri starting again so quickly after coming back from yet another muscle injury is a big risk, but a number of reports have already said Xavi is leaning towards starting his magician as a false left-winger in this one. Sergi Roberto, Ilkay Gündogan and Frenkie de Jong would complete that setup, but if Xavi decides to be cautious with Pedri then Fermín López would be the next logical choice to start in a four-man midfield.
João Félix and Lamine Yamal played very well off the bench against Osasuna and deserve to start, but Xavi trusts his Clásico formula and probably sees those two as super subs who can change the game if the initial plan doesn’t work on Sunday, so we will likely see two other names in attack to start this one.
Raphinha’s hamstring injury means Ferran Torres and Robert Lewandowski are the two probable starters in attack, with Ferran getting to play on the right side where he’s always been more comfortable and productive. Vitor Roque could get some second half minutes looking for a dream Clásico debut, but the young Brazilian is definitely not starting this one.
Possible XI: Peña; Araujo, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Roberto, Gündogan, De Jong, Pedri; Ferran, Lewandowski (4-4-2)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Real Madrid? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!