Ousmane Dembele is in line to make his first start of the season, but Gavi could be rested when Barcelona take on Real Betis in La Liga on Saturday.
Barcelona will be aiming to make it three wins in a row in La Liga when they lock horns with Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis at Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon.
Manager Xavi Hernandez does not have any fresh injury concerns to deal with going into the game. However, Barcelona continue to be without the services of Ansu Fati, Pedri, Martin Braithwaite and Sergio Aguero, while Dani Alves is ineligible to feature. Speaking in his pre-match presser (h/t Barca Blaugranes), the Blaugrana boss provided an update on Fati’s condition.
“Ansu is doing a tremendous effort to be back with the team and it makes me emotional to see how hard he works. We know that these next matches are important for us. Until he’s 100% he won’t be back with the team. I’m not going to force any players. We did that in the past and we lost them. When he’s 100% he’ll be back with the team,” Xavi said.
With a crucial UEFA Champions League clash against Bayern Munich up next, the manager might decide to rest one or two key players against Betis to keep them fresh for the trip to Germany. However, no alteration is expected between the sticks, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen continuing to guard the Barcelona goal when Real Betis visit.
Ronald Araujo has been in fine form this term and should start at the heart of the defence. However, he could be in line for a change of partners, with Gerard Pique likely to be given a breather ahead of the Bayern clash. Instead, Eric Garcia, who started at right-back in the last game against Villarreal, should move to his natural centre-back slot.
Sergino Dest has recovered from his lower back injury and is in contention to feature. The USMNT international should get the nod at right-back ahead of Oscar Mingueza, while Jordi Alba should continue at left-back.
Moving into the middle of the park, captain Sergio Busquets is a guaranteed starter, as is Netherlands international Frenkie de Jong, who was impressive in the win over Villarreal. The third slot is likely to be taken up by Nico Gonzalez yet again, with fellow academy ace Gavi likely to be held back as the 17-year-old has been playing relentlessly over the past couple of months.
With Gavi likely to be rested, Ousmane Dembele could be in for his first start of the season. “Ousmane is 100%. It will all depend on how we want to attack and defend. How I’m going to use him. He’s 100%. He’s happy, he’s training well. He’s good and he’s ready to play,” Xavi said.
With no Aguero and Braithwaite and Luuk de Jong not favoured, Memphis Depay becomes the obvious pick in the No. 9 slot for Barcelona. Youngster Abde Ezzalzouli has impressed in his last couple of appearances and should start on the right flank, especially given that he will be ineligible to feature against Bayern.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen, Dest, Araujo, Garcia, Alba, de Jong, Busquets, Nico, Abde, Depay, Dembele.