Arthur Melo is ruled out of Barcelona’s La Liga clash against Real Madrid, while Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann are set for their El Clasico debuts.
Barcelona will be looking to grab all three points when they welcome arch-rivals Real Madrid to Camp Nou on Wednesday for the first El Clasico of the 2019-20 La Liga season.
The top spot in the La Liga table will be on the line as leaders Barcelona are level on points with second-placed Real Madrid and the Blaugrana manager Ernesto Valverde addressed the importance of winning the game in his pre-match press conference.
“This year the league is really tight and El Clasico is always close no matter the form of the two teams coming into it. Winning the Clasico would be a big step forward in the league before the half way point and it will be a more important game for the winner as they will be three points ahead,” Valverde said.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 17, 2019
Heading into the crunch tie, Barcelona have only two injury-enforced absentees. Forward Ousmane Dembele will miss out again, having been out of action due to a thigh injury he sustained towards the end of the last month. The second absentee for the Catalans will be midfielder Arthur Melo, who is out with a pubis injury.
Speaking of the Brazilian, Valverde said in his presser, “On Monday he didn’t train. It will difficult for him to be involved in the Clasico.” Indeed, Arthur has been left out of the 18-man matchday squad named by the manager on the eve of the game, along with summer signing Junior Firpo.
There are unlikely to be any changes made to the lineup that started at the weekend against Real Sociedad, meaning Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba continue as the full-backs against Real Madrid, while Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet pair up at the heart of the defence. Marc-Andre ter Stegen is the undisputed choice in the Barcelona goal.
Ivan Rakitic has forced his way back into Valverde’s side after spending most of the season on the benches. His presence has added a sense of solidity to this Barcelona side and he ought to start against Real Madrid. Sergio Busquets will anchor the Barcelona midfield, while Frenkie de Jong will occupy the third slot in the middle of the park, in his first ever El Clasico.
Another player who will be making his Clasico debut on Wednesday is marquee summer signing Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman has been among the goals in the last couple of matches and will be hoping to carry on in the same vein of form against Real Madrid.
Luis Suarez will spearhead the Barcelona attack, while captain Lionel Messi will start on the right flank and look to break a run of three games without a goal or assist against Real Madrid.
Predicted Barcelona XI: ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, de Jong; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann