Barcelona put their unbeaten start to the season on the line when they travel to Germany for the first major test of this campaign as they meet German champions Bayern Munich in their second Champions League group stage match.
The Catalans have won five straight games in all competitions and have cruised through almost all of their matches, with a high-scoring attack and a defense that’s conceded just two goals so far.
But Bayern will without a doubt be the toughest challenge the Blaugrana have faced in the first month of this season, especially at the Allianz Arena where they are virtually unstoppable. Here’s how we think Barça will line up for Tuesday’s big game.
Xavi Hernández clearly had this game circled on his calendar and made sure to rotate his squad over the last two matches against weaker sides to have his best team fit and available for this one.
At the back, there’s very little doubt about Jules Kounde at right-back and Ronald Araujo and Eric García in the middle, bur the big question is at left-back: will Xavi stick with the young Alejandro Balde or will he go for the experience of Jordi Alba? Balde has done nothing to lose his place and is more than capable of dealing with the likes of Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry on the wing, but it won’t be a shock to see Alba in his place when the lineup is announced.
Frenkie De Jong has made a very, very strong case to be included in the lineup for this one. He started in Sergio Busquets’ place against Viktoria Plzen and was excellent, and was easily on the shortlist of the best performers against Cádiz at the weekend.
With Sergio Busquets and Pedri seemingly locks to start against Bayern, the decision will be between Frenkie and Gavi for the final spot in midfield. Gavi has played very well in the last three or four matches after a slow start to the season, but De Jong also deserves a spot. It’s not an easy pick for Xavi, and it’ll be hard to criticize whatever choice he makes.
The big story of this game will be the return of Robert Lewandowski to the place he just left to join Barça this summer. The Pole has been in red-hot form to start the season and is undoubtedly Barça’s biggest hope for a win at the Allianz Arena.
But he has plenty of attacking talent around him, and there are three players fighting for the other two spots on the frontline: Ousmane Dembélé is the favorite to start on the right and will have quite the battle with Bayern’s Alphonso Davies, and his ability to provide service for Lewandowski will be key in this one.
When it comes to other wing, both Ansu Fati and Raphinha are playing excellent football and both deserve to start in this one. Ansu scored at the weekend and is in great form, and might be just a little bit ahead of Raphinha in Xavi’s mind. But the Brazilian’s work rate on the defensive end might win him the job in this one against such a strong Bayern attack, and his speed on the counter and crossing ability could play a major role as well.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Eric, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Raphinha (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona will line up against Bayern Munich? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!