Barcelona look for their first win of the new season when they welcome Cádiz to the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium for their home opener in the 2023-24 La Liga campaign on Sunday evening.
The Blaugrana got off to a slow and frustrating start to their season last weekend with a goalless draw against Getafe that had very little football and plenty of dirty tactics and bad refereeing. But last week’s mess is in the past and the Catalans have a chance to finally get on track in front of their fans.
But Cádiz have proven to be a very difficult opponent for the Catalans, losing just once in three visits to Barça since 2020. Here’s how we predict Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Sunday’s battle.
Formation and Tactics
Xavi will of course not be on the sidelines for this one as he serves the first of a two-game ban for his red card against Getafe. His brother Òscar Hernández will take charge of the touchline and make the substitutions and in-game adjustments, but we know Xavi will have heavy input in the tactical plan and team selection.
And based on his pre-match quotes, we shouldn’t expect a lot of change from last week’s strategy. Xavi’s plan is to do the same thing, only better, so we’ll continue to see a 4-3-3 base that morphs into a 3-2-4-1 in possession and defends in a high-pressing 4-4-2. His hope is for a much better performance from the midfield box and more aggressive play from the wingers in the system, and not going down to 10 men would also be helpful.
As for the team, Barça are dealing with the absence of two starters for this one: the first is at the back, with Ronald Araujo out through the international break with a hamstring injury. The Uruguayan started at right-back on Sunday with Jules Kounde in the middle, and the expectation is that Kounde remains a center-back for this one alongside Andreas Christensen.
Sergi Roberto is the favorite to start at right-back, and Alejandro Balde will retain his place on the left with complete freedom to bomb forward and play as a left winger when the team has the ball.
Barça’s midfield struggled to create chances against Getafe due to the opponent’s low block, and Cádiz will employ a similar defensive structure to try and limit the Blaugrana’s most imaginative players. The simple truth is they have to play better than last week, but a downside of Xavi’s system is that it makes it too easy for opposing teams to defend a stagnant, positional midfield box if the passing isn’t quick and sharp enough.
But even with the struggles in midfield last week, Frenkie de Jong was the bright spot of Barça’s performance and has started the season in fantastic form. He’ll once again have Oriol Romeu as his double pivot partner when the team has the ball, and Oriol and Frenkie will look to provide the initial passes to the two midfielders in front of them.
Those two midfielders will likely once again be Pedri and Ilkay Gündogan, with Gavi seemingly the first option off the bench in the current Barça lineup.
Raphinha’s two-game suspension opens the door for one of the four reserve attackers to stake their claim for a regular spot in the team: Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati and Lamine Yamal all provided enough signs that they deserve a chance during preseason and — in the case of Ansu and Yamal — the game against Getafe, but the right wing spot will most likely be given to Ez Abde.
The Moroccan is the closest player to Raphinha in terms of the specific skill set required of a winger in Xavi’s system, and Abde will have a huge chance to prove he can beat defenders one-on-one and provide service to Robert Lewandowski, who will once again lead the attack and is hoping to be more involved in the action this week after a quiet showing against Getafe.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Pedri, Romeu, De Jong; Ez Abde, Lewandowski, Gündogan (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Cádiz? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!