Ousmane Dembele is in contention to start while Sergino Dest and Abde Ezzalzouli should feature from kickoff when Barcelona take on Villarreal in La Liga.
Barcelona will be hoping to pick up back-to-back wins in the 2021/22 La Liga when they lock horns with Villarreal away at Estadio de la Ceramica on Saturday night.
Ahead of what promises to be a challenging assignment for Xavi Hernandez & co., they have not been dealt with any fresh injury setbacks. However, Pedri, Martin Braithwaite, Sergi Roberto, Sergio Aguero and Ansu Fati remain unavailable for selection. The manager addressed the current condition of the latter in his pre-match presser.
“He is doing very well, he has very good feelings. He has started to run, but we have to be careful. Then we will see if we can take the risk or not. Ansu is a very important player and we cannot risk losing him again, but it will depend on the player’s feelings,” Xavi said (h/t Barca Blaugranes).
Having lined up with a three-man defensive unit in the midweek clash against SL Benfica, Barcelona are expected to revert to their usual 4-3-3 formation on Saturday night in front of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who is a guaranteed starter between the sticks. Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo ought to pair up at the heart of the Catalans’ defence, meaning Eric Garcia and Clement Lenglet miss out.
There is no looking past Jordi Alba in the left-back slot for the Catalan bigwigs. There is set to be a change at right-back as Sergino Dest has completed his recovery and is ready to start. Oscar Mingueza will be an option from the bench.
The three-man midfield unit pretty much picks itself as captain Sergio Busquets, and Frenkie de Jong are ever-present figures in the lineup when fit and available for selection. The third slot will be a toss-up between Nico Gonzalez and Gavi, with the former likely to get the nod in the middle of the park as the latter could be utilised up ahead in the attacking line.
Ousmane Dembele returned to action in midweek after another spell out on the sidelines. Speaking of the Frenchman and whether he is in a position to start a game, Xavi said: “Physically he’s good. We need to be careful because he wasn’t 100% the other day and he sacrificed a lot for the team. Tomorrow we’ll see, we’ll decide if he can start or not but we need to take care of him.”
Given his long tryst with injuries, Dembele might not be risked against Villarreal from the start, which should open the spot for youngster Abdi Ezzalzouli to start on the right flank. Gavi, meanwhile, should slot in on the left-wing, as he has done in the past couple of matches, while Memphis Depay takes the No. 9 slot.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen, Dest, Pique, Araujo, Alba, de Jong, Busquets, Nico, Abdi, Depay, Gavi.