Barcelona play the most meaningless game of the entire season on Tuesday evening when they travel to the Czech Republic to face Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League group stage finale.
Barça’s loss to Bayern Munich last week sent them to the Europa League for the second straight season, but they’ll still hear the Champions League anthem one more time against one of the worst teams in the competition’s recent history.
Plzen come home for their final game in Europe this season and will look for a famous result in front of their fans against one of the biggest clubs in the universe. Here’s how we think Barça will line up on Tuesday.
Xavi Hernández is expected to leave out all of the players who have played big minutes recently, with some of them not even making the trip. Big names will be rested in this one, but the back four essentially picks itself.
Jules Kounde and Eric García both left the game against Valencia injured, and while neither is expected to be serious there is no chance the two starting center-backs will play in this one. Andreas Christensen might be medically cleared but won’t be risked from the start, and Alejandro Balde is a starter now and is expected to be rested as well.
That leaves only four defenders: Héctor Bellerín at right-back, Gerard Piqué and Marcos Alonso at center-back and Jordi Alba at left-back. They are the most likely starters, and expect backup goalkeeper Iñaki Peña to also be given a rare start to give Marc-André ter Stegen a much-needed night off.
Pedri will be one of the players to be given a night off, and the Spaniard might not even make the trip. Sergio Busquets is suspended, so Marc Casadó and Álvaro Sanz will be called up from Barça B to make up the numbers in midfield.
Casadó and Sanz are unlikely to start, and with Pedri getting a rest there are only three midfielders left: Frenkie De Jong, Gavi and Franck Kessie. De Jong has been playing more minutes in his best position lately, and will do so once again if he starts on Tuesday. Kessie hasn’t played a lot this month and needs to get in rhythm, and Gavi will probably not play all 90 minutes but is still expected to start.
Robert Lewandowski will be given a much-deserved night off on Tuesday, and won’t travel with the squad either. Memphis Depay could be given the medical green light for this one, so Lewandowski’s backup will likely be making the trip.
But Memphis’ case is similar to Christensen and the two won’t be risked from the start in their return from injury, and Ousmane Dembélé won’t start this one. That leaves a front three of Raphinha on the right, Ansu Fati on the left and Ferran Torres through the middle. That is an interesting combination that we haven’t seen yet this season, with three attacking players that need minutes and confidence right now.
Possible XI: Peña; Bellerín, Piqué, Alonso, Alba; Kessie, De Jong, Gavi; Raphinha, Ferran, Fati (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Viktoria Plzen? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!