Barcelona begin a very busy January schedule with their first game of 2023 as they travel to the city of Alicante for their Copa del Rey debut against Third Division side CF Intercity on Wednesday night.
The Blaugrana returned from the World Cup break with a disappointing draw against Espanyol on New Year’s Eve, and they look to rebound from that with a win against a relegation candidate two divisions below them that will no doubt treat this as the biggest game in their history.
Xavi Hernández will most likely rotate his squad for this one, and here’s how we think Barça will line up on Wednesday.
Barça are fully healthy with no injury issues to speak of at the moment, so Xavi doesn’t need to play any of his best players in this one. At the back, Ronald Araujo is expected to start his first game in over three months after a long recovery from injury, and a game against a lower level opponent is the perfect opportunity to get the Uruguayan back in the flow.
Araujo should start at center-back and Eric García could also use with a start to get back in rhythm after not playing at all in the World Cup. Héctor Bellerín is most likely starting at right-back, and since he’s suspended for the weekend clash with Atlético Madrid it wouldn’t be a shock to see Jordi Alba at left-back.
Gavi could be out for a couple of games after suffering a hip contusion against Espanyol, so the young Spaniard won’t be available for this one. Frenkie De Jong is a starter and Pedri has a rare chance to rest, so don’t expect the two to play from the start againt Intercity.
That leaves three available midfielders: captain Sergio Busquets, young Pablo Torre and Franck Kessie, who used the World Cup break to recover from a serious hamstring issue and is ready to go again. Álvaro Sanz will most likely be called up from Barça Atlètic to replace Gavi, and the youngster could find himself in the team if Busquets is saved for Sunday.
Robert Lewandowski’s suspension is expected to be reinstated during the week as La Liga will no doubt appeal the court decision that allowed the Pole to play against Espanyol. If he’s indeed banned for the next three league games, Lewy has a chance to be in the lineup for this one to keep himself in rhythm, but as of this writing there has been no news on that front.
Assuming Lewandowski is rested on Wednesday, Memphis Depay will start up front and hope to get a goal or two against a lower level defense to get his confidence up and maybe earn more minutes with the starts. Ousmane Dembélé will likely start over Raphinha against Atlético, so the Brazilian plays in this one. On the left it’ll be between Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati, and with Ansu in need of consistent minutes and confident it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him a chance against a weaker side with the hopes of Fati getting on the scoresheet.
Possible XI: Peña; Bellerín, Araujo, Eric, Alba; Kessie, Busquets, Torre; Raphinha, Memphis, Fati (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against CF Intercity? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!