Barcelona continue a busy February with a quick trip across town for a huge Catalan Derby against Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium in another big La Liga match for Xavi’s men.
Barça moved into the Top 4 for the first time since last September with a brilliant win against Atlético Madrid last weekend, and had a full week to train and prepare for what is always a very tough match against their local rivals.
The Blaugrana begin their Europa League journey against Napoli next Thursday but are still expected to field a very strong team for this one. Let’s see how Barça could line up on Sunday.
If the Napoli match was in the Champions League there is a chance Xavi would consider some rotation for this Sunday, but La Liga is clearly the priority and Barça will have four days to recover for a home game against the Italians. So expect the strongest possible team for this one.
The defense continues to suffer with injuries and absences, with Dani Alves suspended for two games for his red card against Atlético while Clément Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti will both miss out due to injury. Eric García is back in training and could make the squad but is not fit enough to start, so there will be no surprises at the back: Sergiño Dest in Alves’ place at right-back, Ronald Araujo and Gerard Piqué in the middle, and Jordi Alba at left-back.
Frenkie De Jong, Sergio Busquets and Pedri were all very good last Sunday and will most likely be Xavi’s midfield choice for the Derby. Nico González had a nice cameo off the bench but doesn’t look like a starter right now, which just shows the depth of the midfield at the moment. Gavi is always in contention but will most likely play further up the pitch once again, so there should be no changes in the team’s engine.
Adama Traoré shined on his second debut against Atlético and has instantly become both a fan and coach favorite, and it’s hard not to see him starting this Sunday. But the winger missed Friday’s training session with an upset stomach, so his status is up in the air as of now. It doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal, however, so Adama (and his muscles) should be good to go on Sunday.
Ferran Torres will partner Traoré in the front three, and the doubt remains about the third member of the attack. Gavi started on the left and scored last Sunday and should be the choice, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was very good as a substitute on his debut and could be the surprise name on the teamsheet.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Piqué, Alba; F. De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Adama, Ferran, Gavi (4-3-3)
How do YOU think Barcelona should line up against Espanyol? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!