Eric Garcia is set to step in for the injured Ronald Araujo, while Adama Traore and Ferran Torres should start when Barcelona take on Napoli.
Barcelona will be aiming to take a step closer towards qualifying for the Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League when they face Napoli in the first leg of their knockout playoffs at Camp Nou on Thursday.
Coming into the game, Barcelona have been handed a fresh injury blow as key defender Ronald Araujo is set to miss out due to a calf problem he picked up against Espanyol at the weekend. He joins Ansu Fati, Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto and Alejandro Balde out on the sidelines, while Memphis Depay and Clement Lenglet are also doubts for the game.
Araujo’s injury opens up a space for Eric Garcia to come into the starting XI when Barcelona face Napoli. The Spaniard has been unconvincing in his debut season in Catalonia thus far, but manager Xavi Hernandez has backed the former Manchester City starlet to come good.
Speaking in his presser (h/t Barça Blaugranes), Xavi said, “Eric is a centre-back who, for me is at a very high level. He knows he made a mistake and it cost us a goal. We need to help him recover physically as well as his confidence because we are a bit short of centre-backs and he’s an important player for me in terms of the way we play. He needs to return to the level he was at because he was at a very high level before the injury and we need to get him back there.”
Eric Garcia is likely to be partnered with Gerard Pique at the heart of the Barcelona defence. With Dani Alves not being registered for the Europa League, Sergino Dest becomes the automatic pick in the right-back slot, while Jordi Alba is a guaranteed starter on the left. This backline will shield Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.
Moving ahead, Barcelona skipper Sergio Busquets is a certainty to feature in the middle of the park. The veteran midfielder will sit at the base while Frenkie de Jong and the in-form Pedri take up the remaining two slots in the centre of the pitch. Nico Gonzalez will be an option from the bench for the manager.
Adama Traore has been very impressive in his first two games since rejoining Barcelona. The Spaniard drew praises from Xavi, who said, “Adama is giving us a lot, he’s a mature player. He’s able to turn well, he takes really good decisions. He can give us a lot. Drawing players off their mark, getting the ball off the wing, one on ones, he understands it well. He’s able to make the difference.”
The 26-year-old should hold on to his place on the right flank against Napoli, while Gavi, who has been doing very well in an unfamiliar left-wing role, should also retain his spot. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is yet to get into tune with his Barcelona teammates and may have to suffice with a place on the bench, as Ferran Torres should start in a central role again.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen, Dest, Pique, Garcia, Alba, de Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Adama, Ferran, Gavi