Pedri and Sergi Roberto are likely to return while Lionel Messi will start again when Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Sunday.
FC Barcelona play hosts to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, hoping to take advantage of Real Madrid’s defeat to Levante to get into second place in the La Liga standings. They cannot afford a slip-up, though, with Sevilla and Villarreal now running hot on their heals.
“Bilbao is a strong team that plays well in these kind of games. We must be focused, and we must stick to our game plan. We also have to make the best out of our chances,” Ronald Koeman said during the pre-match press conference.
The Barcelona boss will be delighted to have Sergi Roberto back available for this game following his spell out on the sidelines. There’s a chance he could even replace Oscar Mingueza at right-back, especially with Sergino Dest still lacking full fitness.
Koeman was coy when asked about Mingueza’s chances of starting yet another game this weekend, stating “Mingueza has played many games and we have let him play with the first team and he has played as a centre-back and right-back. We’ll see what might happen in the future. Nobody knows.”
Other defensive changes in the Barcelona side should see Marc-Andre ter Stegen returning in goal at the expense of Neto while Jordi Alba should replace Junior Firpo at left-back. Samuel Umtiti performed well in the last league game against Elche; so it won’t be surprising to see him get the nod ahead of compatriot Clement Lenglet either.
“A Barça player always has to be prepared for anything. Umtiti has been out for some time due to an injury, he has recovered well and we are counting on him,” said Koeman when asked about the former Lyon defender, who should start alongside the in-form Ronald Araujo at the heart of the Barcelona defence.
Koeman will, however, miss out on Sergio Busquets due to suspension, which means he will be forced to continue with Miralem Pjanic in the number six role. The Bosnian international should be accompanied by Frenkie de Jong and Pedri in midfield, though both the players are expected to camp themselves in the final third.
Riqui Puig is another alternative but is unlikely to feature following a couple of below-par performances in the Copa Del Rey. Roberto is another option, should Mingueza start at right-back.
Moving forward, Barcelona are set to continue with Lionel Messi after the Argentine scored a brace in his return against Rayo Vallecano. He should spearhead at the Catalan attack, with additional support from the two wide players in Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen; Roberto, Araujo, Umtiti, Alba; de Jong, Pjanic, Pedri; Dembele, Messi, Griezmann