Barcelona will look to build on their victory over Juventus when they take on Deportivo Alaves at the Estadio Mendizorroza on Saturday.

The last week could not be a better one for an FC Barcelona fan, or player, especially after their defeat against Real Madrid in the El Clasico. Josep Bartomeu stepped down as the President of Barcelona, leaving the fans in tears of joy, and the players in a mood to celebrate. The celebration could not have been better, either, as they took on Juventus a day after that and registered a 2-0 win after a rather emphatic performance.

While they have started life perfectly in the UEFA Champions League, things in La Liga been turbulent. After five games, Barcelona sit 12th, with seven points out of a possible 15. Their last game in the league was a humiliating 3-1 loss against Madrid — who are 2nd in the league — where the VAR had a huge decision to make.

Rocky start for the failed Everton manager. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Rocky start for the failed Everton manager. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

On Saturday, Barcelona face Deportivo Alaves, who sit level on points with them. The Blaugranas goal difference saves them some grace as they sit four places above their weekend opponents. Alaves have lost four of their seven games this season in the league but will host Barça on the back of a 2-0 win against Real Valladolid with Tomas Pina and Borja Sainz on target for them.

This fixture, last season, was one of the post-lockdown affairs — in fact, it was the last day of the season. In what was probably their best performance of last season, Barça thrashed the hosts 5-0 with Nelson Semedo, Ansu Fati, Luis Suarez in on the action with one goal each. At the same time, Lionel Messi produced a show with two goals and an assist – his record-breaking 21st of the season.

Ahead of their latest meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Deportivo Alaves

There are several concerns for Pablo Machin ahead of his face-off vs Barcelona. Central midfielder Pere Pons will miss out due to a muscle injury, while Tomas Tavares, Rodrigo Ely, and Victor Laguardia will go through last-minute fitness tests to determine their involvement in this huge game.

Perez was very close to joining Barça in the winter. Tomorrow, he takes them on. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Perez was very close to joining Barça in the winter. On Saturday, he takes them on. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

There is no doubting who will start as the twin-strikers in Machin’s 4-4-2, with Joselu and Lucas Perez leading the line for the Alava outfit. They will have the job of drifting in the half-spaces and pinning Barcelona’s defence back to get more room for the midfielders to move ahead.

Edgar Mendez will take up the responsibilities on the right side of the midfield quartet, with Jota starting on the opposite side. Both these men will be flanking the double pivot of Tomas Pina and Rodrigo Battaglia. The former will hold the fort for Alaves, while the latter plays in a box-t0-box midfielder role.

Ximo Navarro will retain his place on the right side of the backline, given the job to provide width along with Ruben Duarte. Laguardia, even if not fit, will have to be rushed back for the importance of this game, while Florian Lejeune partners him at the heart of the defence. Fernando Pacheco will be the final piece in the puzzle, picking up the gloves for the hosts.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pacheco; Navarro, Laguardia, Lejeuene, Duarte; Mendez, Pina, Battaglia, Jota; Lucas Perez, Joselu

Barcelona

There is one fresh concern for Barcelona, and it comes in the form of an injury to young centre-back Ronald Araujo. The Uruguayan picked up a knock against Juventus in the first half and had to be substituted. Samuel Umtiti and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have returned to light training, but are far from match-fit. Philippe Coutinho is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Coutinho's injury means it is Griezmann's time to shine. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Coutinho’s injury means it is Griezmann’s time to shine. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Gerard Pique got his well-deserved rest on the weekend after a suspension he picked up against Ferencvaros ruled him out for the mega-clash vs Juventus. However, he will start on Saturday, with Clement Lenglet partnering him at the centre of the backline. The Spanish-French duo will be screening Neto in goal.

Ronald Koeman has constantly played around with his team in his first month at Barcelona and surprised the fans by starting Sergino Dest vs Real Madrid, and then Sergi Roberto vs Juventus. For the trip to Alaves, the American is likely to return to the lineup after doing a commendable job last week. Jordi Alba will retain his spot on the left side.

Miralem Pjanic got his second start for Barcelona against his former club Juventus, playing an entire club game for the first time since late June when the Bianconeri faced Lecce. While he did not look rusty, it would be best to rest him right now. Sergio Busquets will take up that role in the double pivot, partnering Frenkie de Jong.

Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann clearly benefitted off each other’s position in midweek, and Koeman is likely to start them again with Griezmann taking the false-nine role and Messi behind him. Francisco Trincao will be preferred over Ousmane Dembele after failing to register a single minute in the UCL clash, while Ansu Fati returns to the side.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neto; Dest, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, de Jong; Trincao, Messi, Fati; Griezmann

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have won two, lost two, and drawn one in the La Liga this season.
  • Barcelona’s top scorer for the season is Ansu Fati, who has registered four goals in five games.
  • Deportivo Alaves have won two, lost four, and drawn one in the La Liga this season.
  • Barcelona have won eight straight games against Alaves in all competitions, with the last loss coming in the form of a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou.
  • Alaves have not managed a clean sheet against Barcelona for 12 games running, the last of which came in 2005 when they drew 0-0.

Player to Watch

Sergino Dest

Embed from Getty Images

Sergino Dest’s transfer to Barcelona was certainly intense, with Bayern Munich also in for the teenager and chasing his signature to enhance their right flank. However, the American preferred Barcelona because of his boyhood love for the club, and the passion he holds for them.

This was visible when Ronald Koeman fielded him on the right vs Real Madrid, as the teenager capped off a sensational display, pocketing the likes of Vinicius Jr, and Ferland Mendy. It is important to start Dest on Saturday as Alaves defend with four men on the flank, and Sergi Roberto will not be able to give Barça the attacking prowess that is required to get past them.

Prediction

Deportivo Alaves 0-3 Barcelona

The season has been very inconsistent for both teams, especially Barcelona, as the highs have been quite high, while the lows are rather humiliating. However, the visitors’ record against Deportivo Alaves in the recent past is too good to ignore, scoring 14 goals in the last four games.

We expect another dominant display from Barcelona on Saturday as they come into this game on the back of a sensational victory in the UCL against Juventus.

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