Following a close contest against Manchester United, Barcelona stay at home hosting Cádiz ahead of a nervy second leg at Old Trafford. The 2-2 draw against the Mancunians brought forth plenty of problems to be addressed, but arguably the biggest setback is the absence of Pedri González and Pablo Gavi.
While the latter received his 3rd yellow card in the 2022/23 European series, earning him a one-game suspension from the crucial second leg against United, the former suffered a thigh injury, which will keep him on the sidelines for about 3-4 weeks. Their absence from the second leg is a sensible loss for Barcelona, despite their tender age, the young duo is already an integral part of the Blaugrana system.
But, when one door closes, another opens. With their absence confirmed for Thursday’s decisive clash, the Cádiz game can be a good preparation for their potential replacements to pick up the rhythm and get into match sharpness. With Xavi reportedly ready to field a heavily rotated lineup, the likes of Sergi Roberto, Pablo Torre, and even Ansu Fati and Ferrán Torres happily welcome this opportunity.
Let’s just dissect this quartet tactically a bit. Roberto and Torre are naturally midfielders, which would mean that Xavi have enough numbers to field a 4-man midfield, especially knowing that Busquets is already back in the squad and is expected to have some minutes in the game too. However, it’s highly unlikely that we get to see such an improvised midfield setup within the confines of the WM formation that we have been using lately.
Instead, it can be expected that Xavi will revert to the 4-3-3, with Fati and Torres ready to start on the wings. Indeed, Gavi’s suspension is valid only in the Europa League, so he could play either in the midfield or the false winger role, but it could be better to field Thursday’s starters so that they can shake together, while the rotation will indubitably play a crucial part in today’s lineup, giving rest to stars like Raphinha.
The defense could see further rotations as Christensen was already rested against United for this game as Xavi admitted before the match – though, it raised questions about the correctness of this decision. In plus, Eric García’s work rate was publicly praised by Xavi in his pre-match press conference, which might mean that the Spaniard will start tonight, especially knowing that Araújo claimed a suspension for the league fixture.
All in all, these unfortunate losses open new possibilities and variations for Xavi, and if the replacements manage to make the most of this opportunity and perform well, it might just even be a blessing in disguise for Barcelona. In a few hours, we will find out. Visca Barça.