After a wild draw in midweek against Mallorca on the road, Barcelona are back home to continue a busy stretch of fixtures when they meet Sevilla at the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Friday night.
The two points dropped on Tuesday mean that Barça’s stay at the top of the La Liga table was short-lived, but they are still unbeaten to start the season and will look to return to winning ways and boost their confidence ahead of a huge Champions League match away to FC Porto next week.
Sevilla lost their first three games in the league but are unbeaten since the international break and always provide Barça with a tough test home or away, and the Catalans must be at their best to get all three points in this one. Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Friday’s battle.
Xavi has been making sensible rotations during the month of September and using his substitutions wisely to manipulate player minutes and always have a fresh squad on the pitch, but this is a big game that requires the Blaugrana’s best available team so don’t expect the coach to keep his big players out for this one.
With perhaps one exception: João Cancelo has played non-stop since the international break and is widely expected to start this one on the bench ahead of the trip to Porto, and if that’s the case we could see the return of last season’s dominant BACK quartet.
Jules Kounde is a full-time center-back now but might return to right-back for one night only, with Andreas Christensen partnering Ronald Araujo through the middle. Alejandro Balde will complete the backline on the left, looking to return to his best version after a couple of inconsistent performances lately.
Without Pedri and Frenkie de Jong, Xavi has no choice but to stick with the midfield trio of Ilkay Gündogan, Oriol Romeu and Gavi. Starting Gündogan again is risky but the extended rest between Friday and Wednesday’s short trip to Portugal should give the German enough time to recover, and he can be substituted early depending on how early Barça wrap up a potential victory.
Fermín López scored his first Barça goal and will continue to play serious minutes until Pedri and Frenkie return, and the 20-year-old is clearly ahead of Sergi Roberto in Xavi’s pecking order in midfield. Fermín could be the surprise name in the lineup if Xavi decides to rest Gündogan, so don’t be shocked if the young man follows up on his strong substitute cameo with a start on Friday.
Robert Lewandowski was rested for an hour on Tuesday which was both surprising and smart, and the Pole will surely feature from the start against both Sevilla and Porto after being rotated against Mallorca.
As for Lewy’s partners, Raphinha deserves a second consecutive start on the right after a strong performance on Tuesday. The Brazilian has responded well to the increase competition in attack, and will always be a big part of Xavi’s plans if he consistently performs.
On the left, João Félix should retain his place after an early substitution against Mallorca that suggests Xavi plans to use him again from the beginning in this one. Ferran Torres is also in contention, but it’s more likely we’ll see the Shark come off the bench against Sevilla.
Possible XI (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; Gündogan, Romeu, Gavi; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Félix
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Sevilla? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!