Barcelona have no time to dwell on their Europa League exit against Manchester United and must turn their attentions back to their biggest priority on the season: winning La Liga. And the Blaugrana make the trip to relegation candidates Almería on Sunday evening looking to continue their perfect league record in 2023.
The defeat at Old Trafford was painful and raised many questions about the long-term future of the team (and the coach), but in the short-term they are still unstoppable in domestic competition and are looking to maintain their comfortable lead at the top of the table if they can get all three points against one of the worst defensive teams in Spain.
Here’s how we think Barça will line up this weekend.
Barça have a massive Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid at Camp Nou on Thursday, and the short turnaround from the trip to Old Trafford probably means a few changes from Xavi Hernández to his lineup, and a couple of players are in desperate need of a rest.
One of them is Jules Kounde, who has played virtually every minute of football over the last month which has hurt the quality of his performances in recent weeks. The Frenchman would benefit tremendously from a rest in this one, and Sergi Roberto would most likely fill his spot at right-back in that case. Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen will remain in the middle of the back four, and Jordi Alba could return at left-back instead of Alejandro Balde.
Gavi’s absence through suspension at Old Trafford was certainly felt on Thursday, so it’s great to see the youngster back in action for this one. His return should mean a rest for Frenkie De Jong, who also has played a ton and would definitely benefit from a night off like Kounde.
If Frenkie is indeed on the bench, Busquets and Franck Kessie will complete the midfield alongside Gavi. Young Pablo Torre might see some minutes against one of the worst teams in the league, but seeing the youngster in the starting lineup feels far-fetched at the moment.
Ansu Fati has been ruled out for this one with a knee injury, leaving only three healthy and available forwards. While Xavi has stuck with his four-midfielder system, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use a true front three against the second-worst defense in the league.
Ferran Torres shined in his start against Cádiz last week and had a solid contribution off the bench against United, and the Spaniard absolutely deserves another run alongside Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha this weekend.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Araujo, Christensen, Alba; Kessie, Busquets, Gavi; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran (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!