The official start of Barcelona’s season takes place on Sunday evening in Madrid as the Catalans begin their La Liga title defense with a historically tough away trip, against Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez.
The Blaugrana come into this one with plenty of uncertainty with a plethora of transfer rumors and a race against time to register their new signings and contract renewals to have a full squad for the league opener. They also had mixed results in preseason, winning three of four games with a few inconsistent team performances.
This is definitely not the ideal time to be facing a Getafe team that once again is coached by José Bordalás and will try its very best to frustrate Barça for all 90 minutes, but Barça have no choice but to get all three points to start their season right. Here’s how we predict Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Sunday’s battle.
Formation & Tactics
Xavi experimented with a number of base formations in preseason: a 4-2-3-1 against Arsenal and Tottenham, a flat 3-4-3 against Real Madrid and the classic 4-3-3 against AC Milan. Regardless of which base shape they were in to start the game, Barça always evolved into the same models: a 3-2-4-1 in posssession, and a high-pressing 4-4-2 without the ball.
This has been Xavi’s defeault system since January of this year, when Gavi became a regular starter as a false left winger and Jules Kounde was the full-time right-back that allowed either Jordi Alba and Alejandro Balde to bomb forward on the other flank. The signings made this summer fit that system and the profiles of players currently in the squad allow Xavi to use different approaches to each position from game to game depending on the opponent and the players available, so don’t expect the system to change anytime soon. Only the names will.
Marc-André ter Stegen begins the season looking to build on a redemption campaign for the German last year, and he’s reestablished himself as one of the very best goalkeepers on the planet. He started virtually every match in all competitions last season, and that will continue to be the case in 2023-24.
Ahead of the German, pending the registration of Alejandro Balde, the BACK quartet should be reunited for the season opener: Andreas Christensen missed the Joan Gamper Trophy but trained normally with the squad in the following days, and should be available to start this weekend. If he can’t quite go yet, Eric García is next in line to take his place.
Jules Kounde will see more time at center-back this season if and when Barça finally sign a specialist right-back, but the Frenchman will most likely be at full-back for this one with Ronald Araujo alongside AC in the middle. Araujo had a bit of an injury scare against Spurs but is fully recovered and ready to go.
The double pivot of Oriol Romeu and Frenkie de Jong will be a fixture of Barça’s midfield at least to start the season, and the two showed great signs together throughout preseason. Romeu was one of the standouts of the exhibition matches and will add much needed physicality to the Blaugrana’s midfield.
Ilkay Gündogan, should he be registered in time, is in contention to start but played very briefly against Tottenham and might not be risked as he returns from a slight groin issue suffered in El Clásico during preseason. If the German isn’t picked from the start, Gavi will retain his place on the left, with Pedri completing the midfield quartet.
Because of Xavi’s plans to use four full-time midfielders in his system this season, the competition for places up front gets even more fierce. Robert Lewandowski will always lead the line, meaning there’s only one spot up for grabs on the right wing and plenty of candidates to take that spot.
Raphinha is ahead of everyone else in the race as of now, but the Brazilian knows he’s on a short leash and has a lot to prove after an inconsistent first season and the responsibility to become a more important part of the team after the departure of Ousmane Dembélé. He starts on Sunday, but the likes of Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati, Ez Abde and 16-year-old Lamine Yamal are all ready to take his place if he doesn’t perform.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; Romeu, De Jong; Raphinha, Pedri, Gavi; Lewandowski (4-2-3-1)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Getafe? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!