Fermin, Yamal to start: Expected Barcelona XI against Napoli

Barcelona's Spanish forward #27 Lamine Yamal and Barcelona's Spanish midfielder #32 Fermin Lopez celebrate Sevilla's Spanish defender #04 Sergio Ramos' owngoal during the Spanish Liga football match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona on September 29, 2023.
Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

A grand test is the next clash for FC Barcelona to worry about as they take on Napoli at the Montjuic Stadium. Taking place as the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash, the first leg did not give an advantage to either team. As such, Barcelona know that only a victory will give them what they desire.

Following the 1-1 scoreline in Naples, Barcelona have enjoyed better form in recent games, at least defensively. With two wins and one draw since then, Barça are yet to concede a goal since the encounter in Italy.

However, the Catalan giants have suffered a lot in terms of injury. For this reason, Xavi’s selection for this game becomes absolutely crucial. Here is how Barcelona could line up against Napoli.

Expected Line up:

Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen

No debate when it comes to the goalkeeper, it should be Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in goal. The German has instilled a sense of defensive confidence and structure back into the team, and his presence is greatly valued.

Left-back: Joao Cancelo

Almost a no-brainer as one of the two fullbacks, Joao Cancelo will be there for Xavi as an indisputable starter. Whether he starts on the left or right could be up for debate, but it would be more likely to see him stick to Xavi’s game plan from recent outings.

Centre-back: Pau Cubarsi

The true revelation of the season, Pau Cubarsi has become a sensational player. Possessing technical quality, composure, maturity, and an understanding of the game that even veterans could envy, the 17-year-old has more than earned his place in the starting eleven.

Centre-back: Ronald Araujo

Suspended for the last outing against Mallorca, Ronald Araujo will now be back in action for Barcelona. The Uruguayan provides a great deal of stability and confidence to Xavi’s team, and his reintroduction could be crucial against the attacking firepower of Napoli.

Right-back: Jules Kounde

Once again performing at a great level, and doing so consistently. Jules Kounde has the versatility needed to be a top fullback for Barcelona, and beyond just the help he provides to Lamine Yamal moving forward, his defensive contributions are just as if not more important to the team.

CDM: Andreas Christensen

Given how stable and well-structured Barcelona have looked in recent games, Andreas Christensen seems to be a likely pick as the team’s pivot. He remains Xavi’s great gamble of the season positionally, and thus far it has paid off greatly for Barcelona.

CM: Ilkay Gundogan

The only first-choice midfielder still not sidelined, Ilkay Gundogan will definitely be in Xavi’s midfield for the game. His excellent experience in the Champions League should help out Barça’s relatively young team, and his quality as a player will undoubtedly be useful to the Catalan giants.

CM: Fermin Lopez

In terms of the third spot in the midfield, there is a lot more room for experimentation. The likes of Raphinha could return should Xavi want an experimental formula, or even Oriol Romeu or Sergi Roberto, to install some balance and experience into the team sheet. However, Fermin Lopez’s energy and dynamism are one of a kind, and in a match as intense as this, it could prove to be key.

Left-winger: Joao Felix

Arguably the one pick that will raise some eyebrows, but Joao Felix could be Xavi’s biggest risk in the attack. Given the nature of both the competition and the game that Barcelona must play, risks may ultimately have to be taken.

Centre-forward: Robert Lewandowski

Despite his failure to find the back of the net in recent games, Robert Lewandowski remains an elite striker of the ball. Interestingly, his last goal against Napoli in the first leg was quite decisive. The Pole will now be hoping to add to his tally against the Italian team.

Right-winger: Lamine Yamal

Following his performance against Mallorca, it would be confusing not to see Lamine Yamal in the starting lineup. At times the most versatile and only unbalancing forward across the frontline, the young Spaniard is already a game-changer for Barcelona.

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