Following a painful loss in extra-time to Athletic Bilbao that eliminated them from the Copa del Rey, Barcelona are back in La Liga action for the final game before the international break as they return to the Basque Country to face Deportivo Alavés.
The loss to Athletic was the second 3-2 defeat in extra-time over the last week, but this one was even more painful than El Clásico as it included a devastating injury to young superstar Ansu Fati, who is expected to miss at least two months.
But Xavi and his young troops must move on and a trip to Alavés promises to be tricky against a team fighting relegation and desperate for a good result. Let’s see how Barça could line up on Sunday.
Barça played a brutal, grueling 120-minute game against Bilbao and have less than three days to recover before playing on the road again, so we should expect at least some rotation from Xavi.
Dani Alves and Gerard Piqué looked exhausted by the end of the game against Athletic and could be the two to drop out for this one, with Sergiño Dest and Clément Lenglet ready to step up if Xavi does decide to rest the two starters. Óscar Mingueza is available as well and could be the surprise name in the lineup if Jordi Alba is also rested.
Gavi is suspended for this one because of the red card he picked up against Granada two weeks ago, so the options in midfield are a little thin for Sunday. Pedri limped off the pitch in Bilbao but did avoid injury, however it would be irresponsible to start him less than three nights later having just come back from a four-month absence.
With that in mind, Nico González and Frenkie De Jong should be locks to start on Sunday. The only doubt is whether Sergio Busquets will start after going the distance against Athletic. The captain will probably be in the lineup for the simple reason that European players don’t have any international commitments this month, so Sergio will most likely play this one and then get two weeks off.
Things seemed to finally improve when it came to attacking depth, but the injury to Fati and the ugly situation with Ousmane Dembélé have already hurt the numbers up front. Memphis Depay continues to work by himself as he recovers from a muscle issue and is unlikely to start on Sunday, and Martin Braithwaite will remain on the bench for a while as he returns to full fitness following knee surgery.
With those four names out of the running, four other players remain with a real chance to start: Ferran Torres, Luuk De Jong, Ferran Jutglà and Ez Abde. Big Luuk has turned his Barça fortunes around and will lead the line, and Torres scored an amazing debut goal in Bilbao and seems to already be a starter in Xavi’s mind. Jutglà and Abde will fight for the other spot, and it’s really a toss-up based on their recent contributions.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; Nico, Busquets, F. De Jong; Ferran, L. De Jong, Jutglà (4-3-3)
How do YOU think Barcelona should line up against Alavés? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!