Philippe Coutinho is in line to feature for Barcelona for the first time in over a year while Lionel Messi should start against Villarreal on Sunday.
Barcelona will be aiming to kickstart the 2020/21 La Liga campaign with a victory when they host Unai Emery’s Villarreal at Camp Nou on Sunday.
It will be the Catalans’ first competitive game under new manager Ronald Koeman, who replaced Quique Setien after the humiliating end to last season. And ahead of his first game in charge, the Dutchman has a few roster issues to deal with.
The first issue comes in the goalkeeping department as Marc-Andre ter Stegen misses out with a knee injury. In his absence, Neto is expected to take the starting spot.
In defence, Samuel Umtiti is ruled out due to an injury. With him being unavailable, the manager doesn’t have any option but to go with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet at the heart of the backline. Flanking the duo should be Sergi Roberto, who is the only option at right-back, and Jordi Alba on the left.
A change of system under Koeman will see Barcelona set up with a double pivot in midfield. This switch in tactics could help get the Catalans best out of Frenkie de Jong, who is expected to start on Sunday. Sergio Busquets should get the nod as his partner, ahead of new signing Miralem Pjanic, who missed the start of the pre-season.
Philippe Coutinho is back at Barcelona after a successful loan spell at Bayern Munich. And he will get a chance to revive his career at his dream club, with Koeman happy to give the Brazilian another shot. Coutinho should occupy the No. 10 slot against Villarreal this weekend.
Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati and new signing Trincao will battle it out for the starting spot on the left flank. However, teenager Fati is likely to clinch the slot for Sunday’s game.
On the right flank, there is no looking past star man Lionel Messi. Things aren’t well between the Argentine and the Barcelona board, but Koeman claimed in his press conference that he was not letting the off-field issues affect his game heading into the new season. (h/t Barca Blaugranes)
“The most important thing to me is how Leo’s been in training and matches. He’s been an example to everyone, showing his commitment to the club and the team. I have no doubts about Messi,” the Barcelona manager said.
With Luis Suarez leaving the club, Antoine Griezmann should be the man leading the Barcelona attack from the centre-forward slot this season, starting with the game against Villarreal on Sunday.
Barcelona Predicted XI: Neto; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, de Jong; Messi, Coutinho, Fati; Griezmann.