Ernesto Valverde is expected to make a few alterations as Barcelona lock horns with Atletico Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.
Barcelona will look to make full use of their winning momentum when they travel to Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid this evening. The Spanish champions are coming on the back of a comprehensive 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the midweek and will have an opportunity to regain their place at the top of the table.
However, head coach Ernesto Valverde might be forced to make a few changes to his side, especially after Ousmane Dembele picked a thigh injury against Dortmund. The Frenchman has been left out of the squad as expected, with the coach stating, “Dembele is a big loss, it was unexpected. I’ve spoken to him and he’s more relaxed now. We’ll cover his loss with reserve players, who have been responding very well.”
Speaking of Dembele’s cover, he will likely be replaced by his compatriot Antoine Griezmann, who, in turn, will be bracing himself for an emotional return to Wanda Metropolitano. He isn’t, however, expected to receive a warm welcome by the Atletico Madrid fans.
Nonetheless, Griezmann will partner both Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in the Barcelona attack in the absence of the injured Dembele. Carles Perez and Ansu Fati will be the ones providing Valverde with additional options in the final third.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets has been suspended after accumulating five yellow cards. His absence should pave the way for Arturo Vidal to return to the starting eleven while Frenkie de Jong is likely to move in deeper and operate as the holding midfielder.
Ivan Rakitic, on the other hand, is unlikely to retain his place in the side despite putting in an impressive display in midweek. Arthur Melo is tipped to return to the fold. The Brazilian will operate as the central midfielder, who will be tasked with the responsibility of providing creative support in the final third.
And finally, in defence, Valverde will be boosted by the return of Gerard Pique. His experience and leadership could be essential as the visitors look to contain the threat of Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata. Pique is likely to be partnered by Samuel Umtiti, who should get the nod ahead of Clement Lenglet as Valverde is unlikely to risk the ex-Sevilla star.
Elsewhere, the primary full-backs in Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo have been ruled out, meaning Sergi Roberto and Junior Firpo will both retain their places in the starting eleven. And it will be Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who starts in goal. The German will brace himself for a busy evening against a sharp Atletico attack.
Predicted Barcelona XI: ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Firpo; Vidal, de Jong, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann