FC Barcelona will be looking to ensure they retain their lead at the top of La Liga following their 2-1 victory over Real Madrid previously. They now travel away from home to lock horns with bottom-placed Elche and play the 27th match in their 2022/2023 La Liga Santander campaign.
Currently sitting on 68 points after 26 games, they hold a 12-point lead over 2nd-placed arch-rivals Real Madrid. Los Blancos will play their 27th fixture in the league against Valladolid after Barcelona have played their own against Elche, so the Catalans will be hoping to, at least momentarily, increase their lead at the top to 15 points.
Goalkeeper: Marc Andre Ter Stegen
The number one between the sticks remains undisputed, as the German international will be Barcelona’s insurance behind their backline. Ter Stegen also started both of Germany’s international break games when they competed for their UEFA Euro qualifiers.
Right-back: Sergi Roberto
With Ronald Araujo set to be rested against Elche and Christensen injured, it would imply that Xavi would use Kounde as a central defender. In turn, this would leave the right fullback slot in the defense unmanned, and it would be expected of Sergi Roberto to slot right there in that vacant position.
Centre-back: Jules Kounde
The Frenchman returns from the international break and will now be expected to slot right in at the central defensive position. His technical ability alongside his defensive prowess makes him an elite defensive outlet for Barcelona to depend on.
Centre-back: Eric Garcia
With Christensen and Ronald Araujo both set to not start this game, and Marcos Alonso being reserved for El Clasico, Eric Garcia would be expected to partner Jules Kounde in defense. There also exists the slight possibility of Xavi testing him as a pivot, but that remains unlikely as of right now.
Left-back: Jordi Alba
With Balde having just returned from the international break with Spain, the youngster might be given a rest by Xavi Hernandez. Jordi Alba would be the ideal slot in as his replacement, with the veteran having had restricted minutes this season. It may be a good opportunity for Alba to get some game time under his belt.
CDM: Sergio Busquets
The captain and club veteran will be expected to play in the pivot role as he typically does. His awareness of the game as well as his gifted passing range will all be essential factors in enabling Barcelona to bypass Elche’s defensive structure.
CM: Franck Kessie
An uncanny hero for the Blaugrana when others seem down and out, the Ivorian midfielder has come in clutch for the Catalans on multiple occasions. The win in both previous El Clasicos had Kessie heavily involved in the respective winning goals, and since then the player has been hitting his best strides under Xavi all season.
With the wings set to be occupied by Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati, and with Frenkie De Jong and Pedri still out injured, Gavi will be expected to start in the midfield three. Back in his natural position, the youngster who will now again be donning his old number 30 shirt, will be able to showcase his tenacity and ability to win duels in a more centrally effective position.
Right-winger: Ferran Torres
A solid performance against Cadiz in his previous outing as a right winger did not go unnoticed. His quality dribbling and linkups with his teammates enabled Barcelona to create a lot of dangerous momentum during that particular game, and Xavi will be hoping for more of the same this time around as well.
Centre-forward: Robert Lewandowski
As the pole continues his rather frustrating goal drought, it would be useful to recall his game revolves around much more than simply being a lethal goalscorer. His backheel to Balde in the league Clasico for instance was the catalyst in allowing the Catalans to capitalize and win the game with the consequent goal.
Left-winger: Ansu Fati
The Spaniard has been having quite an eventful week. His father’s public comments have caused quite a stir in Catalonia, and it is now upon Ansu himself to change perceptions of him and his will to remain in Barcelona. A chance against Elche could be exactly what the youngster needs to prove himself.
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen
Defenders: Alba, Garcia, Kounde, Roberto
Midfielders: Kessie, Busquets, Gavi
Forwards: Fati, Lewandowski, Torres