Sergino Dest is expected to start over Sergi Roberto when Barcelona travel to the Spanish capital to take on Atletico Madrid on Saturday night
Barcelona will be hoping to build on their sensational victory against Real Betis when they travel to the Wanda Metropolitano to take on Atletico Madrid in their first match since the end of the international break.
Ronald Koeman has a lot of questions to answer when he prepares his team for this game, most of which surround the injuries to his players. Sergio Busquets picked up a knee injury against Switzerland while on international duty, while Pedri, too, was forced off due to a knock sustained against Faroe Islands Under-21.
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The Barcelona boss is also already without the services of Ansu Fati, who underwent surgery for a torn meniscus. Thankfully, Philippe Coutinho makes his way back into the travelling squad after spending a month on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury. Koeman gave no hints about his starting XI, or even about the inclusion of the Brazilian in his team, when he addressed the press in the pre-game conference.
“We’re happy that Coutinho has returned without problems. He’s a very important player. We will talk to the medical staff to see if he is fit enough to play tomorrow,” the Dutchman said only adding to the suspicion.
However, we expect that Koeman will not rush Coutinho and start Pedri on the left wing against Atletico Madrid, while Ousmane Dembele retains his spot on the right wing. The Frenchman was not called up to play for France during the break and had ample time to stay fit and refreshed.
Pedri and Dembele will be flanking Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, who will play off of each other in what will be a 4-2-3-1 on paper, but a 4-2-4 when Barcelona attack and a 4-4-2 when they defend.
Busquets’s exclusion from the squad clears the path for Miralem Pjanic, who will start in the heart of the pitch alongside Frenkie de Jong. The latter has started in all matches for Ronald Koeman, playing all but ten minutes in the season so far; nobody in the team, including the goalkeepers has played more.
The Barcelona defence will have a puzzling time dealing with Joao Felix, who has been in red hot form for Atletico Madrid so far, scoring five goals in La Liga. The task will fall upon the shoulders of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet, who will take their spots in the centre of the back-four, screening an in-form Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Jordi Alba’s place in the starting XI is pretty much nailed on, with rumours of Junior Firpo leaving the club still afloat. The dilemma, however, will be about the opposite flank, where Sergi Roberto and Sergino Dest compete for the starting position.
Roberto put on a sensational attacking display against Real Betis, assisting two goals, but was far from convincing at the back. Dest’s recovery speed will push him over the Remontada hero, as it will be crucial against an Atletico Madrid side that are lethal on the counter.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen; Dest, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Pjanic, de Jong; Dembele, Messi, Pedri; Griezmann