FC Barcelona will be traveling to San Mames to face off against the ever-so-resilient Basque side of Athletic Bilbao in a game where the Catalans will indefinitely need all three points to reinstate their 9-point lead over a Real Madrid that they just recently brought it down to 6 points, courtesy of their 3-1 victory over Espanyol.
Barcelona see the return of their star center-forward as a big boost given that right after this game, the Catalans next face Real Madrid at the Spotify Camp Nou in a La Liga Clasico.
This is what the Blaugrana starting line-up may look like against Los Leones.
Goalkeeper: Marc Andre Ter Stegen
In his continued quest for his first-ever Zamora trophy, coupled with his obvious fantastic form in between the sticks, the German International will surely be the undisputed starter for Barcelona right behind the defensive line.
Left-back: Alejandro Balde
In a game that is sure to be full of intensity and physicality, Alejandro Balde is a player that allows La Blaugrana to always have the ability to break through harsh periods of being pinned back courtesy of his rather electric and flashy speed and similarly gifted traits.
Centre-back: Marcos Alonso
The loss of Ronald Araujo is one that heavily impacts FC Barcelona, as his presence is typically always a great asset to have regardless of the opponent. Now that he is unavailable due to suspension, Barcelona’s second best alternative would be to deploy Marcos Alonso as Xavi has done so in the past and continues to rely on him much more than he would in the likes of Eric Garcia.
Centre-back: Andreas Christensen
The Danish International remains one of Barcelona’s smartest and most effective signings in recent years. His performances have rarely ever deterred in quality and he remains a rather ideal Barcelona center-back courtesy of the mixture of technical and defensive traits that the ex-Chelsea player possesses.
Right-back: Jules Kounde
The Frenchman will be trusted to monitor the right flank of the defense despite his recent performances having a sort of inconsistency about them on certain occasions. His qualities are trusted by Xavi and for good cause, but he needs to ensure he minimizes any extreme errors going forward.
CDM: Sergio Busquets
The Spanish veteran and Barcelona captain will be an indefinite starter for the Blaugrana given that he remains Xavi’s most trusted outlet in the heart of the midfield for both defensive and transitionary duties. His contribution with a sublime assist last time around against Valencia ended up being the difference between both teams at the end of the game.
CM: Frenkie De Jong
The Dutch midfielder has become irreplaceable for Xavi Hernandez the more and more he has been deployed under the manager. His intricate running and creative vision have all been pivotal to Barcelona’s strong La Liga campaign thus far.
CM: Franck Kessie
Franck Kessie finds himself to be amongst those players that have arguably improved their image in front of Xavi during recent weeks and courtesy of his rather solid performances, it does not seem unlikely at all that Xavi chooses to start the Ivorian midfielder during this game where his physical nature may also come to aid the Catalans against a similarly intense Bilbao side.
Gavi returns from suspension and should find himself back in the starting line-up as Xavi’s preferred false winger. His tenacity was heavily missed but the youngster should learn from past mistakes and ensure he keeps away from unnecessary and rash challenges that could see his bookings accumulate yet again.
Centre-forward: Robert Lewandowski
The return of the Polish striker instills great hope to the Blaugrana outfit and Camp Nou faithful alike. His goalscoring threat makes him an absolute priority for Athletic Bilbao to worry about and this in turn may end up leaving gaps for those around him to exploit as well.
Growing both his confidence and level of performance in recent weeks in the absence of Ousmane Dembele, Raphinha has started to prove his worth to the Catalan giants and continues to impress in both numbers as well as utter determination on the field regardless of his sometimes frustrating decision making.
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen
Defenders: Balde, Christensen, Alonso, Kounde
Midfielders: Kessie, Busquets, De Jong
Forwards: Gavi, Lewandowski, Raphinha