New signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres and Adama Traore are set to start when Barcelona take on Espanyol on Saturday.
FC Barcelona travel to the RCDE Stadium on Sunday, as they take on local rivals Espanyol, in the widely famous Derbi Barceloni. It is a crucial game for the Blaugrana as they look to maintain their top-four status in La Liga, while potentially increasing their lead over Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.
Heading into this game, Xavi Hernandez will be dealt with a selection dilemma, as he keeps one eye on the important UEFA Europa League clash against Napoli in midweek. He will also have the contend with the absence of Dani Alves through suspension.
Fortunately for him, he won’t have to deal with too many absentees, especially in defence, with Eric Garcia likely to full fitness. “Barring any surprises, Eric Garcia will be on the squad list,” Xavi stated in his pre-match press conference. “Dani is an important player for us, he gives a lot, we cannot do anything about the suspension,” he added, when asked about the suspension of Alves and his impact on the team.
Nevertheless, Alves is set to be replaced by Sergino Dest at right-back, whereas Jordi Alba remains a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank. Xavi is likely to persist with his tried and tested central defensive duo of Ronald Araujo and Gerard Pique, despite the likely return of Eric Garcia to the squad. And finally, in goal, there is no looking past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, as he looks to keep a welcome clean sheet.
Moving into midfield, Gavi and Nico Gonzalez remain in contention to feature in this game. But during the current period, Xavi may prefer stability and therefore, he may persist with the three-man setup involving Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and the exciting Pedri.
However, both Gavi and Nico are likely to take part in this game as potential second-half substitutes. Xavi showered praise on Gavi heading into this game, stating, “Gavi is very competitive, and makes tackles when he plays between the lines. He needs to improve tactically. He’s 17 and his production is amazing, he’s an amazing talent.”
In the attack, Xavi offered an update on the fitness of Memphis Depay. “Memphis is fine, but he won’t be with the group until next week, but Eric Garcia will be on the list tomorrow. We’ll see if he plays or not,” he said.
However, the Spaniard did confirm the involvement of Ousmane Dembele, stating, “I was planning to substitute Dembele in the second half against Atletico, but due to circumstances of the red card, he did not participate. He will almost definitely participate in the next game, and help us.”
Dembele is one of the favourites to start at right-wing. However, Xavi may persist with Adama Traore, given how well the Wolves attacker performed in the last game. In fact, the Barcelona head coach could deploy an attacking setup comprising of January signings in Ferran Torres, Adama and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Dembele remains an option from the bench, whereas Luuk de Jong is a potential alternatives to Aubameyang, who is poised to make his full debut for Barcelona this weekend.
Predicted Barcelona XI: ter Stegen, Dest, Pique, Araujo, Alba, Pedri, Busquets, de Jong, Adama, Aubameyang, Torres