Gerard Pique is fit again and in contention to feature while Ronald Araujo could start when Barcelona face off against Real Madrid this weekend.
Barcelona will be aiming to move to the top of the La Liga standings when they lock horns with arch-rivals Real Madrid in the second El Clasico of the 2020/21 campaign at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Saturday.
Heading into the game, manager Ronald Koeman has been handed a double injury boost as Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto are both fit again and have been named in the travelling squad. However, Philippe Coutinho, Ansu Fati and Neto miss out for the Catalans.
Speaking of the returning duo in his pre-match presser (h/t Barca Blaugranes), Koeman said, “Both Pique and Roberto are important players not just for their quality but also for their personality and it’s great they are here for his important match. Both lack rhythm and match fitness but they are excited to help the team.”
Given that Koeman mentions that they lack match fitness, Pique and Roberto might not be thrust into the starting XI right away against Real Madrid. However, there could be a change in the backline, with Ronald Araujo getting the nod after having made a number of appearances from the bench since returning from injury.
The Uruguayan ought to operate alongside Oscar Mingueza and Clement Lenglet in the three-man defensive unit that will protect Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal. There is no looking past the in-form dynamic duo of Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba for the wing-back slots on the right and left sides, respectively.
Frenkie de Jong, who has started the last few games as a centre-back and excelled in the position, should move back to his natural habitat in the middle of the park. The Dutchman is a key component of this team due to his quality and versatile nature and was praised by the manager in the build-up to the game.
“The good thing about Frenkie is that he can play different positions. He has so much value when he plays as a defender because with the ball we can come out better. He’s shown as well that he can cause damange in the opponents’ half,” Koeman said about his compatriot, who should have Sergio Busquets and Pedri as partners in the middle of the park against Real Madrid.
Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is a certain starter in attack against the Merengues. Given that his contract with the Catalans runs out at the end of the season, this could very well turn out to be his last El Clasico. Ousmane Dembele should partner him in the final third after his match-winning contribution against Real Valladolid, with Antoine Griezmann dropping to the bench.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet; Dest, de Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Alba; Messi, Dembele