Ernesto Valverde is expected to ring in the changes when Barcelona visit Reale Arena to face Real Sociedad this evening.
Barcelona will have the opportunity to extend their winning streak to eight games across all competitions when they meet Real Sociedad on Saturday. The Spanish champions are coming on the back of a strenuous 2-1 win over Inter Milan. Hence, Ernesto Valverde is expected to shuffle his pack, knowing a mishap against Sociedad could allow Real Madrid to crawl back to the top of the table.
The Barcelona boss has admitted in his press conference that, “Anoeta is always one of the toughest places to play.” And so it will not be surprising to see Valverde ringing in the changes and opting for the strongest possible eleven.
Valverde has been blessed with the return of Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo, both of whom have received medical clearance and have been included in the squad – the club confirmed on their website.
The Barcelona manager talked about the duo during his presser (h/t Barca Blaugranes), iterating, “They have been training since just after the last league game. They didn’t have the medical all-clear for inter but hopefully today they can. They are both training well.”
Alba, in particular, is tipped to start at left-back, at the expense of Junior Firpo, who has not really looked convincing in the Spanish international’s absence. Sergi Roberto, however, should get the nod over Semedo on the opposite flank.
Valverde is likely to revert to a four-man backline, meaning Samuel Umtiti might have to the return to the bench. It will pave the way for Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet to form the central defensive partnership. Elsewhere, there is no one replacing Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.
Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong are guaranteed to return in midfield, at the expense of Carles Alena and Arturo Vidal. As for Ivan Rakitic, he could retain his role in the middle of the park.
Valverde opened up about the Croatian international during his press conference, stating, “I see him in the same way as I see the others. If he plays more often, it is because he is playing well.”
And finally, in attack, Lionel Messi has been included in the squad, which is clearly bad news for Carles Perez and Ansu Fati. The Barcelona captain is expected to operate at right-wing, with Antoine Griezmann assuming his role on the opposite flank.
The Barcelona attack could be spearheaded by Luis Suarez, with Valverde being devoid of any other alternatives. The Uruguayan, however, has been playing well in recent matches and it will be interesting to see whether or not he manages to continue his scoring form alongside Messi. Antoine Griezmann will complete Barcelona’s three-pronged attack.
Predicted Barcelona XI: ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, de Jong; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann