Barcelona will look to continue their unbeaten January and book a spot in the Final Four of the 2022-23 Copa del Rey when they welcome Real Sociedad for a massive quarterfinal clash at the Spotify Camp Nou.
The Blaugrana remain three points clear at the top of the La Liga table after a difficult win over Getafe on Sunday, and while there is cause for celebration with another important victory in the title race the Catalans left much to be desired in regards to the quality of their performance.
They must step up their level to find a way to win against a Sociedad side in brilliant form and in third place in the league table. They are always a very tough opponent, but at least this time Barça won’t have to travel to Anoeta and have the rare opportunity of playing a Cup game at home. Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops on Wednesday.
Despite resting all of his starters in last week’s Copa clash Xavi did not go back to the full strength side against Getafe. Some of it was forced with Robert Lewandowski suspended but he also decided to rest a couple of players who were not 100% fit. But the coach will have of his best men available for this one, so it’s all systems go and as close to his best team as possible.
At the back, Ronald Araujo will return after not featuring in the last two matches as a precaution having played virtually every minute since returning from injury. The Uruguayan should be fresh and ready to go, with Jules Kounde moving to right-back and Andreas Christensen expected to be fit again after a small injury scare at the weekend.
All three left-backs are in contention to play, but my personal preference is Alejandro Balde who was very good the last time these two teams met and has only gotten better since. In goal, a game of this magnitude calls for the Cup debut of the in-form Marc-André ter Stegen. Sorry, Iñaki Peña.
Frenkie De Jong was the other one rested by Xavi at the weekend after struggling with a minor muscle problem, but the Dutchman also benefited from the rest and will be ready to go for this one. He might return in place of Sergio Busquets if Xavi decides against the four-man midfield and goes with more of a classic 4-3-3, with Gavi and Pedri completing the trio to give the captain a rest.
De Jong could just as easily replace one of the young stars and play with Busquets at the base of midfield, but we won’t know Xavi’s choice until he gives some hints at his pre-match press conference and releases the official lineup an hour before the match.
Lewandowski will serve the final game of his suspension against Girona at the weekend but is available for this one, and after his two-goal performance at Ceuta the Pole will be fully rested and ready to go. He is badly needed against a strong Sociedad defense, and Ansu Fati’s disappointing performance in his place against Getafe proved just how important Lewandowski has become to this team.
Ferran Torres is also out of the Girona match and could find himself starting this one if Xavi goes with a traditional three-man forward line. The right wing spot most likely goes to Ousmane Dembélé, though Raphinha assisted the winner on Sunday and seems like a bigger part of the coach’s plans at the moment. Ansu Fati feels more suited to a super sub role right now, and probably starts this one on the bench.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; Gavi, De Jong, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Ferran (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Real Sociedad? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!