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How will Barcelona line up against Alavés in La Liga?

Barça travel to the Basque Country for an important league clash

FC Barcelona v CA Osasuna - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona returned to winning ways in midweek against Osasuna and now look to start a crucial month of February with another win in the league as they travel to the Basque Country to meet Deportivo Alavés on Saturday evening.

Barça struggled against the side of Pamplona but found a way to get three crucial points thanks to Vitor Roque’s first goal for the club, and the Catalans will now look to start a winning streak to continue to solidify their position in the Top 4.

But the Blaugrana are missing a lot of players due to injury and just ended an insane month of January, and Alavés are having a strong season and are ready to cause problems in front of the home crowd. Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for Saturday’s battle.


Defense

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

The madness of January is finally behind us and Barcelona will have full weeks to rest and prepare after this weekend’s game, so the extra recovery period will allow Xavi Hernández to use a strong starting XI once again in this one.

The coach also has no choice but to play a strong team with all the injuries, so the team that played most of the game against Osasuna will likely start again. That means a back four of Jules Kounde, Ronald Araujo and João Cancelo alongside the probable return of Andreas Christensen, who was rested in midweek due to his ongoing Achilles issue but should be good to go on Saturday.

Pau Cubarsí will be available to replace any of the three starting center-backs if Xavi decides to rest one of them, and Iñigo Martínez is also expected to get the medical green light and be in the squad though the veteran defender might not be fit to start just yet.

Midfield

FC Barcelona v CA Osasuna - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barça’s midfield trio of Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gündogan is starting to look more and more comfortable together, and Xavi added a new dynamic to that combination by playing Pedri further back alongside De Jong as a double pivot, with Gündogan playing essentially as a number 10.

All three midfielders have benefited from that change and the Catalans looked more solid defensively with that setup in midweek, so expect that configuration to continue if Xavi decides to stick with the same three players against Alavés. He could decide to rest one or two of them, however, with Oriol Romeu the likely choice to replace either Pedri or De Jong as a pivot.

And because of the injuries in attack we will likely see the return of the four-midfielder system with Fermín López starting for the injured Ferran Torres as a false left winger, and the youngster had a strong 55-minute substitute cameo before being replaced by Vitor Roque against Osasuna.

Attack

FC Barcelona v CA Osasuna - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Speaking of Vitor Roque, the Brazilian will have an increased role in the next month with Raphinha, Ferran and João Félix all missing due to injury, but the young striker might be better suited for a substitute role for now.

His intensity and movement is an excellent weapon to change the pace of a game, and given Xavi will likely use four midfielders until the injured attackers return then Roque is the perfect super sub that can inject some speed and scoring threat to a team in need of those qualities.

But Roque might have to start anyway if Xavi decides to rest Lamine Yamal, who has played at least 90 minutes in the last four games and desperately needs a night off to recharge his young legs. Keeping the 16-year-old healthy is even more crucial now that he’s literally the only winger left, but he’ll most likely start again with Xavi hoping to have the chance to take him off early in the second half depending on the result.

Robert Lewandowski will lead the line one more time, but Roque’s performance in midweek was another reminder that the Pole will not be untouchable if he doesn’t improve. He’ll be safe for now with the injuries, but he might find himself on the bench soon if he can’t score and Roque continues to take advantage of his opportunity.


Possible XI: Peña; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Cancelo; Pedri, De Jong; Yamal, Gündogan, Fermín; Lewandowski (4-2-3-1)


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

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