Barcelona continue their busy October with another La Liga match this weekend as they welcome Celta Vigo to the Spotify Camp Nou for a crucial clash on Sunday night.
The painful and costly defeat to Inter Milan in the Champions League quickly erased the memory of a very successful weekend for Barça, who are top of the La Liga table for the first time in over two years even if it’s only on goal difference over defending champions Real Madrid.
Barça worked hard and made a near perfect start to the league season and find themselves where they belong, but it’s hard not to think about their precarious European situation and the gigantic clash with Inter at Camp Nou next Wednesday. Barça could see themselves eliminated with two games to spare in the group, so it’s a little hard to pay full attention to the Celta game when it’s still so early in the league season.
But El Clásico is just a week away, and Barça will arrive at that game in first place if they find a way to beat a Celta team that knows how to make things tough for the Catalans. Here’s how we think Barça will line up on Sunday.
The depth of the squad was already going to be tested by the crazy October schedule, but the injury bug has made things even tougher for Xavi Hernández. His best three center-backs are out, and Héctor Bellerín is also injured making the defense very thin at the worst possible time.
Gerard Piqué has received a big opportunity to regain his place in the squad after sitting out most of the first few games, but he’s one of two available central defenders and will start on Sunday alongside Eric García. Sergi Roberto is the only choice at right-back, and Jordi Alba might get the nod on the left in this one if Xavi decides to go with Alejandro Balde or Marcos Alonso against Inter.
The midfield was also bit by the injury bug as Franck Kessie picked up a groin problem that doesn’t seem too serious but will keep him out of this one. Thankfully for Barça they can count on Frenkie De Jong, who completed two full training sessions without any issues this week and will be available.
The Dutchman could be a welcome addition to the starting lineup against Inter, but it’s hard to see Frenkie playing this one from the beginning having just recovered from injury. Sergio Busquets, Gavi and Pedri will once again be the midfield trio and must play better than they did at San Siro for Barça to win the midfield battle against a Celta team that always makes it tough in that area of the pitch.
The attacking performance against Inter was incredibly disappointing and Robert Lewandowski experienced for the first time what many strikers before him over the last few years have gone through when the rest of the team just doesn’t work and there is no service for the goalscorer.
Ousmane Dembélé and Raphinha were not good at San Siro, but it’s not entirely their fault as they got no help from the midfielders or full-backs to create overlaps on the wings and make things a little more difficult for the Inter defense. Still the two wingers were below their usual standards and could use a night off in this one to recharge and be at their best for Wednesday.
Lewandowski will play unless Xavi decides to rest him with Inter and Real Madrid next week, but the Pole is a physical freak and rarely misses a game. But the two players around him could (and should) change: Ansu Fati played well off the bench against Inter and should start this one, and why not try Ferran Torres on the right wing? He usually plays well in that position for Spain and hasn’t really worked from the left for Barça this season.
Maybe a slight change in position and tactical role could benefit Ferran and give a talented player some confidence as the team needs as much offensive help as it can get against some quality opposition this month.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Eric, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; Ferran, Lewandowski, Fati (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona will line up against Celta? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!