After a horrible defeat against Real Madrid at home to end their chances of a domestic treble, Barcelona turn their focus back to the La Liga title race as they welcome Catalan rivals Girona to the Spotify Camp Nou on Monday.
Barça have a chance to effectively end the race in this one thanks to Villarreal’s incredible comeback win away to Madrid on Saturday, which gives the Blaugrana a chance to go 15 points clear with 10 games to go and pretty much wrap up the title.
The leaders need a big response to Wednesday’s El Clásico humiliation in front of their home fans, but it won’t be easy against a Girona team full of young talent that always makes it tough for Barça — home or road. Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Monday’s battle.
There hasn’t been much movement on the injury front as the same four starters who missed El Clásico remain out as they continue their recovery, so barring a miracle there will once again be no Andreas Christensen, Frenkie De Jong, Pedri or Ousmane Dembélé for this one.
Because of those key absences Xavi has very little options for the starting lineup, with only a couple of changes expected from the Madrid defeat to just try and freshen up the team and give other players a chance. One of those alterations is expected at the back as Eric García will most likely replace Marcos Alonso in the back four after Alonso’s tragic performance on Wednesday.
The rest of the backline should remain intact, with Jules Kounde returning to right-back and Ronald Araujo as Eric’s partner in the middle. Jordi Alba has an outside chance of starting on the left, but Alejandro Balde is the favorite to keep his place.
The four-midfielder system just doesn’t look the same without De Jong and Pedri, and it would make sense to go back to a more classic 4-3-3 look for this one without the two best midfielders on the team.
Only one of Franck Kessie and Sergi Roberto should be starting in this one, with Gavi badly needed in the middle to provide some magic alongside Sergio Busquets. Kessie had a tough night against Madrid and seems better suited to a substitute role at the moment, so Roberto most likely completes the midfield trio.
Raphinha had a very difficult night on Wednesday but the Brazilian still has Xavi’s trust to be the best option on the right wing without Ousmane Dembélé, so it would be a surprise to see any other name in that position on Monday.
Robert Lewandowski will lead the line, and if we indeed see a classic front three then the final spot will either go to Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati. Neither is making a strong case for more minutes right now, but Fati did start and score on the left in last week’s win against Elche and would certainly benefit from another chance to prove his worth and earn more playing time in the final 10 games of the season.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Eric, Balde; Roberto, Busquets, Gavi; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Fati (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Girona? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!