Quique Setien could be forced to start Ansu Fati when Barcelona face Napoli on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg.
Barcelona will miss out on the services of a host of key players when they travel to Stadio San Paolo to face Napoli on Tuesday. And with El Clasico just around the corner, manager Quique Setien could face a selection dilemma as he seeks to continue his side’s good run of form.
In his pre-match press conference, the Barcelona boss heaped praise on Lionel Messi, who will undoubtedly play a key role in this fixture. He notably scored four goals in the massive 5-0 win over SD Eibar, and it will be interesting to see how combines with Antoine Griezmann against a Napoli side, who are expected to showcase their “best version” this midweek.
That being said, Setien could be forced to start with Ansu Fati in the left wing slot, especially with Ousmane Dembele out injured. Meanwhile, new signing Martin Braithwaite, who made quite an impact against Eibar, is not registered to play in the Champions League, meaning he, too, will miss out against Napoli.
That leaves Barcelona with Fati as the only other option in attack, especially with Carles Perez moving to AS Roma in the January transfer window.
Setien could face a similar situation in defence, where both the premier full-backs in Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba have been ruled out due to injury. As a result, the ex-Real Betis boss has no choice but to continue with Nelson Semedo and Junior Firpo.
Elsewhere, Samuel Umtiti is pushing for a place in the first-team this midweek. Setien confirmed in his press conference that he is yet to make a decision as to who between Umtiti and Clement Lenglet will partner Gerard Pique in at the heart of the Barcelona defence.
“They are in great shape, I will make the decision of who will play, at 3 am in the morning. Right now, I don’t know who will play,” said the Barcelona manager, although we expect him to opt for Lenglet.
In midfield, however, Setien will have many more options to choose from, with the likes of Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, Arthur Melo and Frenkie de Jong all being fit and available heading into this fixture.
Sergio Busquets has enjoyed a solid run of form under Setien. He is a guaranteed starter in the holding midfield role while de Jong could make his return to the starting eleven, after being rested in the last game. The experienced Rakitic could be handed the final spot in the middle of the park, meaning Arthur misses out.
Finally, there is no replacing Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal. The German international, however, should brace himself for a busy evening given Barcelona’s recent history of becoming more defensively suspect in Champions League games.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Firpo; de Jong, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Griezmann, Fati