One of the most anticipated matches remaining in the La Liga calendar takes place this Sunday when Barcelona travel to the Santiago Bernabéu to meet their biggest rivals, league leaders Real Madrid in El Clásico.
Barça are coming off a great comeback in Turkey against Galatasaray to book a place in the Europa League quarterfinals, but will face a very short turnaround while Madrid had all week to rest and prepare without any midweek commitments.
The Blaugrana haven’t lost in their last 11 games in all competitions and are on a four-game winning streak in La Liga, but will face their toughest test yet against the red-hot Los Blancos. Let’s see how Barça could line up on Sunday.
Sergiño Dest suffered a hamstring injury and Gerard Piqué had to be substituted because of a muscle issue on Thursday, so Barça will not have a lot of depth in defense to go up against the best attack in Spanish football this weekend.
Dest’s absence will be covered by the return of Dani Alves, who isn’t allowed to play in Europe but will be available on Sunday. Piqué will try his best to make the team and it’s hard to see Geri missing a Clásico, but of he isn’t fit enough then Ronald Araujo will return to the backline alongside Eric García.
Pedri was once again magnificent on Thursday and even at the age of 19 is quickly becoming Barça’s undisputed best player, reminding us of the great Andrés Iniesta with each dominant midfield performance. He starts on Sunday, as he should do in every big game for as long as he wears the Blaugrana shirt.
Frenkie De Jong also deserves a place in the XI, and the big question is whether or not Sergio Busquets can play two big games in less than three days. The captain was great in the second half against Galatasaray and won’t play for Spain in the international break, so he will probable be able to go at the Bernabéu and then take two weeks off.
The biggest question for Sunday’s game is the front three: will it be three forwards or will Gavi start on the left wing? Xavi has used the young midfielder in that position several times in his tenure with mostly excellent results, including that memorable win over Atlético Madrid at Camp Nou last month in which Gavi scored and was hugely influential.
It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see Gavi up front alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé, who are probably starting on Sunday given their recent form. Adama Traoré remains a real option and Ferran Torres will start on the left if Xavi chooses against the four-midfielder system, and Memphis Depay cannot be ruled out either. There is some real depth in the attack right now, which is never a bad thing.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Alves, Araujo, Piqué, Alba; F. De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Aubameyang, Gavi (4-3-3)
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