Barcelona play their last competitive match of 2023 this Wednesday when they welcome Almería to the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium for their final La Liga game of the year. Barça will get paid a lot of money for a friendly against Club América in Dallas the following day, but this is the last match that matters this year for the Blaugrana.
And after a third straight game without a win thanks to a depressing draw away to Valencia at the weekend, Barça badly need a win to help go into the New Year with some semblance of positivity in the middle of a very tough run of results and performances.
Thankfully they get to play a team that is off to one of the worst starts in La Liga history in Almería, who have a dreadful defense and are yet to win a game this season. Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Wednesday’s battle.
Given the busy run of fixtures in recent weeks it’s safe to expect at least some minor rotations from the coach for this one, though Xavi will still select a strong team to make sure they get all three points and do it with as little drama and difficulty as possible.
At the back there’s one expected change as Andreas Christensen is likely to come in for Jules Kounde at center-back, though we could see the Dane in the starting XI in another position (more on that later). If Christensen does indeed replace Kounde in the middle, then João Cancelo and Alejandro Balde will retain the full-back spots and Ronald Araujo will complete the backline.
Frenkie de Jong is suspended for this one due to yellow card accumulation, and replacing the Dutchman has not proven easy all season. Oriol Romeu has not done a good job, but maybe he gets one last chance to impress and maybe build some confidence playing agaisnt the worst team in the league.
We do know Pedri and Ilkay Gündogan will complete the midfield, but De Jong’s replacement is a real question mark given Romeu’s struggles. We think the former Girona man starts here, but don’t be surprised to see Sergi Roberto or Fermín López in a more attacking midfield setup.
The two wildcards are Christensen and Raphinha. Christensen has played as a defensive midfielder for club and country before, and Raphinha has already played as an inside forward for Barça in a 4-2-4 formation many times this season, including against Valencia at the weekend.
We still think Romeu ends up as the choice, but it’s the one big doubt about the lineup and it’s the most interesting decision Xavi has to make.
If Xavi goes with a more traditional 4-3-3 setup and decides to rotate up front, then the right wing is the spot most likely to change with Raphinha playing a lot of football lately and struggling to find consistent form.
The Brazilian could benefit from a super sub role in the second half, opening the door for either Lamine Yamal or Ferran Torres to start on the right. We think Ferran will get the nod here, and despite his mixed bag of performances this season the best moments for Torres for both club and country have come as a right winger.
Possible XI: Peña; Cancelo, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; Gündogan, Romeu, Pedri; Ferran, Lewandowski, Félix (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Almería? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!