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How will Barcelona line up against Las Palmas in their first La Liga match of 2024?

Barça begin the new year with a difficult road trip

FC Barcelona Training Session Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

After a much-needed holiday break to recharge the batteries and a few days of training in beautiful Catalonia, Barcelona kick off 2024 with their first La Liga match of the new year when they travel to the beautiful Canary Islands to face Las Palmas on Thursday night.

The Blaugrana had a very difficult December and hope that the time away to celebrate Christmas and the New Year gave players and coaches a chance to get away from all the negativity and focus on turning their fortunes around as we begin a new calendar year and enter the home stretch of the season.

As is always the case in Spain the schedule in January is brutal, and the Catalans have to navigate a difficult fixture list with a few key injuries to deal with while also trying to win every game, especially in the league as they try to stay alive in the title race. Las Palmas promise to be a very difficult test, but three points are crucial for the reigning champions in this one.

Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Thursday’s battle.


Defense

FC Barcelona v UD Almeria - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barça’s fortress at the back from last season is no longer that strong, with the defense conceding easy goals consistently and a few mental lapses from players who were virtually mistake-free last season. The attacking issues don’t help as they put a lot of pressure on the backline to win low-scoring games, but the simple truth is Barça don’t defend as well as they did a year ago.

Xavi is still trying to find a back four he can truly trust, and he’ll likely go with João Cancelo, Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde and Alejandro Balde for this one and hope that they are less prone to mistakes than they were in previous matches. Las Palmas are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league but can be dangerous on the counter, and the two attacking full-backs must be prepared to track back and help the two athletic center-backs so they don’t have to put out all the fires by themselves.

Midfield

FC Barcelona v Girona FC - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Pedro Salado/Getty Images

Barça get a massive piece back for this one as Frenkie de Jong is available again after missing the final game of 2023 through suspension, and every game that the Dutchman misses makes it more and more evident just how important he is as the engine to Barça’s midfield and the man who usually starts every good attacking move the team makes.

Sergi Roberto is expected to retain his spot after a heroic effort against Almería and two huge goals in the second half for the captain and his teammates. Roberto has consistently been one of the few players displaying real passion and commitment to the cause, and if he’s able to string consecutive, consistent good performances together he could inspire the rest of the squad to bring the intensity from the start.

Ilkay Gündogan will complete the midfield trio, with Pedri not available for this one as he deals with yet another muscle injury.

Attack

FC Barcelona v UD Almeria - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barça may have scored three goals in their last game but the attacking players still left a lot to be desired, which is why the arrival of Vitor Roque brings a lot of hope. His youthful energy and natural scoring ability could be a big boost, but it’s unclear as of this writing if the Brazilian will be registered in time to make his debut against Las Palmas.

Even if he is available to play, Roque is likely to come off the bench and play a few minutes here and there, so Robert Lewandowski will once again lead the line with Raphinha and Ferran Torres likely to start on the wings on Thursday.

João Félix is expected to be dropped and not have as prominent a role as he’s played well below par for several weeks now, and the Portuguese will have to earn his spot again to play big minutes in big games.


Possible XI: Peña; Cancelo, Araujo, Kounde, Balde; Roberto, De Jong, Gündogan; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran (4-3-3)


How do you think Barcelona should line up against Las Palmas? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!

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