Memphis Depay is in line to start after his registration issues were sorted, while Frenkie de Jong is in contention as Barcelona face Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Barcelona will kick off a new era without Lionel Messi this weekend as they lock horns with Real Sociedad in their opening fixture of the 2021/22 season at Camp Nou on Sunday night.
The absence of Messi looms large as manager Ronald Koeman prepares his team for the game. But there have been a few boosts for the Dutch tactician as Frenkie de Jong has recovered from his injury and returned to training while Pedri is also available for selection after his late return to pre-season following the Tokyo Olympic games, along with new signing Eric Garcia.
Speaking about their availability in his pre-match presser, Koeman said (h/t Barca Universal): “Frenkie trained in the last training session and will be ready for tomorrow. Pedri, like García, has returned with great encouragement. They have shown that they are good to play. Gavi wears a mask but is also available.”
However, Barcelona will be without teenage prodigy Ansu Fati for the contest, while Ousmane Dembele and Sergio Aguero remain unavailable. Another major absentee for the Catalans will be first-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, which means Neto ought to start between the sticks despite being linked with a summer exit.
Moving into the defensive unit, Clement Lenglet is a doubt due to a knock he picked up in pre-season, while Garcia’s late return means he might not be involved. With Samuel Umtiti being heavily linked with an exit, Koeman could go ahead with the pairing of Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo at the heart of the Barcelona backline, with Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba flanking them.
Sergio Busquets will don the captain’s armband for Barcelona and occupy the defensive midfield role. As for his partners, the availability of de Jong and Pedri will be tempting for the manager, but the latter might not be pushed given how he has hardly had any rest between two full international tournaments after a gruelling season of club football. Instead, Sergi Roberto could start alongside de Jong.
The big boost for Barcelona heading into the game, though, is that they were able to register Memphis Depay in time for him to be eligible for the contest. The Dutchman has been one of the biggest positives of the pre-season for the Catalan giants, and in all likelihood, will be starting against Real Sociedad on Sunday.
“From Memphis I expect a lot. I know him well from the national team, where he has given a lot of performance, and I ask him the same as there. He is very important,” Koeman said of his compatriot. The Dutchman ought to occupy the left flank while Barcelona B starlet Yusuf Demir should also make his La Liga debut, slotting in on the right. Antoine Griezmann will start in his preferred central role at Camp Nou.
Barcelona Predicted XI: Neto, Dest, Pique, Araujo, Alba, de Jong, Busquets, Roberto, Demir, Griezmann, Depay