17-year-old Alejandro Balde is in line to make his La Liga debut while Philippe Coutinho should start when Barcelona take on Granada at Camp Nou.
Barcelona will be hoping to return to winning ways and climb up the La Liga standings when they lock horns with a struggling Granada side at Camp Nou on Monday night.
Heading into the game, manager Ronald Koeman has some selection headaches to deal with following injuries to first-team regulars Jordi Alba and Pedri. The duo join the likes of Sergio Aguero, Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite out on the sidelines. There is some good news, though, with Sergino Dest returning in training in time for the game against Granada, while Fati is also close to a return.
Providing an update on the time-scale of the Barcelona prodigy’s return in his pre-match presser (h/t Barca Blaugranes), Koeman said: “Ansu is a really young player. He’s shown his great skills, he scored many goals at the start of last season. We don’t want to say one date but he is working hard. He’s training with the squad, so hopefully in one week or 10 days, more or less, he will be back.”
Having fielded a three-man backline in the defeat to Bayern Munich last week, Koeman is expected to revert to a 4-3-3 formation on Monday with Marc-Andre ter Stegen lining up between the sticks. Gerard Pique ought to take up one of the two centre-back slots while Ronald Araujo could partner him ahead of Eric Garcia, who had a terrible outing in the Champions League.
The full-back slots will be up for grabs with Dest returning from injury while Oscar Mingueza, Sergi Roberto also available as options on both right and left sides. However, 17-year-old Alejandro Balde, who made his first-team debut against Bayern, is in line to start his first game for Barcelona, in place of the injured Alba, with Koeman dropping a hint of the same in his presser.
“He made his debut the other day, with energy, Dest also has played on the left, Mingueza he also can play on the left. But I prefer to have a left-footed player because it’s better. We have to analyze it because we are talking about a really young player and he has to learn. But I’m not afraid to start Balde,” he said.
Meanwhile, with Dest only returning from injury recently, it should be Mingueza who gets the nod at right-back. Moving into the middle of the park, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong are certain starters for Barcelona against Granada. But with Pedri ruled out it opens up a spot that could be taken up by another teenager, Gavi, although Sergi Roberto is also an option for Koeman.
Philippe Coutinho, who made his return to on-field action coming on as a substitute against Bayern Munich, could be in line for a start to provide the creativity going forward. The Brazilian ought to take up the left flank while the other two slots in the final third should be occupied by summer signings Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen, Mingueza, Pique, Araujo, Balde, de Jong, Busquets, Gavi, Depay, de Jong, Coutinho.