After a quick trip to Saudi Arabia for the Maradona Cup in midweek, Barcelona return to action on Saturday as they welcome Elche to Camp Nou for some La Liga action.
This will be the last home game for Barça in 2021 and they’ll be looking to not only give the fans something to cheer but also return to winning ways after the disappointing draw away to Osasuna last week.
Barça play a crucial away game against Sevilla next Tuesday which could affect Xavi Hernández’s personnel decisions for this weekend. Let’s see how Barça could line up against Elche.
Gerard Piqué is suspended for yellow card accumulation and won’t feature on Saturday, and with Jordi Alba back in training but not yet cleared to return it is hard to predict which defense will take the field.
Xavi went with a back three against Osasuna last week, and even with Piqué’s absence there are plenty of defenders available to use the same system. Ronald Araujo seems to be a guaranteed starter under Xavi, and both Samuel Umtiti and Clément Lenglet played well enough recently to fight for a spot as well.
We can’t forget Eric García and Óscar Mingueza either, and there is also the possibility of a back four which opens the door for Sergiño Dest and Alejandro Balde to play as full-backs. There are several combinations available, and it’ll all come down to what Xavi thinks will be best suited to face Elche.
Sergio Busquets got a much deserved rest against Boca Juniors and will surely return to the team for this one, and he’s expected to have his usual young partners in the middle of the park in Gavi, Nico González and Frenkie De Jong.
The four played as a midfield diamond in Xavi’s 3-3-1-3 away to Osasuna, which didn’t work very well but might just need another game together to produce better results. Riqui Puig was excellent in the Maradona Cup and continues to earn more minutes under Xavi, and seeing him start on Saturday wouldn’t exactly be a shock.
With the continued absence of Memphis Depay and Luuk De Jong’s awful performance against Osasuna, predicting Barça’s striker on Saturday is really hard. We do know who the wingers will be: Ousmane Dembélé, who felt some pain last week but seems to be okay, and Ez Abde who scored his first goal for the club and earned some high praise from Xavi.
If Dembélé cannot go for some reason, then the door opens for the likes of Yusuf Demir, Philippe Coutinho and Ilias Akhomach to start this one. Don’t be shocked if Barça’s Ferran Jutglà gets the nod either after making his debut last week and scoring against Boca Juniors.
But the big question is the striker: De Jong did nothing last week to earn a second straight start, so the position is truly up for grabs. Other than the big Dutchman, Jutglà is the closest thing to a striker among the players currently involved with the first team and might end up being the surprise name when the team news come out on Saturday.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Araujo, García, Lenglet; Nico, Busquets, Gavi; De Jong; Ez Abde, Jutglà, Dembélé (3-3-1-3)
How do YOU think Barcelona should line up against Elche? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!