Barcelona have no time to celebrate their epic comeback win over Celta Vigo at the weekend and must focus on a quick turnaround and a road trip as they travel to the island of Mallorca to face Mallorca at Son Moix on Tuesday night.
The champions are now top of the table for the first time this season and will look to remain in first place if they get a win in this one, but it doesn’t promise to be easy against a Mallorca side that was one of Barça’s toughest challenges on the road last season and are expected to play with a back five, the same system Celta used to nearly beat Barça at Montjuïc at the weekend.
Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Tuesday’s battle.
Xavi Hernández made a couple of rotations against Celta, and with such a quick turnaround for this one and another league match against Sevilla on an unusual Friday night kickoff there is no doubt he will make changes again for this one. The challenge is to keep the team fresh but also be strong enough to win a tough away match, but there is enough depth to make that happen.
We’ll surely see a couple of changes at the back, with Andreas Christensen unlikely to start this one after coming off early against Celta after clearly struggling physically. There hasn’t been an injury update on the Dane, but it would be a shock to see him start on Tuesday. Ronald Araujo will take his place alongside Jules Kounde in the heart of the backline, with Alejandro Balde returning at left-back after being rested for 60 minutes on Saturday.
The main doubt is at right-back, with João Cancelo a candidate for rotation after making three consecutive starts and looking very tired towards the end of Saturday’s game before scoring the game-winner. This might be the ideal time to rest Cancelo at least for an hour, with Sergi Roberto likely to return at right-back if that’s the case.
The injury to Frenkie de Jong is a massive blow to Barça’s midfield depth and leaves the team without their best player in what will be a very difficult stretch of games between now and the start of November when he’s initially expected to return. The absence of Pedri also complicates the plans, and Xavi has no choice but to stick with the very few remaining options.
They are Oriol Romeu, Gavi and Ilkay Gündogan, who are yet to start together as a three-man unit and will be tested against a very physical Mallorca midfield. Fermín López is the only option off the bench right now, but has already shown he’s good enough to help provide quality depth until Pedri and Frenkie return.
Just like João Cancelo at the back, this might be the right game to rest João Félix given what’s ahead for Barça in the next two weeks. The forward has quickly become a crucial part of the team, and could be a game-changer in the second half if Xavi chooses to give him an hour or so of rest at the start.
If Félix is indeed rested, Ferran Torres is the replacement on the left, though he could find himself through the middle if Xavi decides to rest Robert Lewandowski instead. The Pole rarely gets rotated, though, and given his hot run of form it’s very unlikely we’ll see anyone else lead the line.
If Félix is rested and Ferran moves to the left, a spot will be open on the right wing and Raphinha could be Xavi’s choice. His work rate and physicality is ideal to face a gritty team like Mallorca, and a player like Lamine Yamal would be better suited to come off the bench against a more tired team to cause chaos later on.
Possible XI (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Araujo, Kounde, Balde; Gavi, Romeu, Gündogan; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Mallorca? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!