The Catalans travel to Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán this Saturday in a tricky encounter to face Sevilla FC where the Blaugranas will aim to reclaim their top spot against a struggling side that sits 16th on the league table.
Barcelona gaffer Luis Enrique will have big selection headache as most of the team’s attacking options are out injured with the Spaniard forced to call B team players to fill in for the injured personnel.
Lionel Messi will be watching the game from the stands as he is recovering from an injury that he sustained in the game against Las Palmas. Sevilla are one of the favorite oppositions of the Argentine superstar as the 28-year-old has scored an incredible 21 goals against the Andalusian club in 22 meetings. Given the forward’s absence, Lucho will probably field the forward line of Neymar Suarez and Munir El Haddadi as the youngster shone when he came off the bench against Leverkusen to setup the winning goal for Luis Suarez with some brilliant footwork.
Andres Iniesta is also set to miss out the first team squad after having suffered a hamstring injury in the match against Bayern Leverkusen. He will be out for approximate 4 weeks. Barcelona will also be missing the services of the talented youngster Rafinha Alcantara who is out for 6 months due to a torn ACL. Enrique will prefer the experienced former Sevilla man Dani Alves as the right back so Sergi Roberto looks the ideal man to take up the vacant spot in the midfield. So the midfield would probably look like
Ivan Rakitic Sergi Roberto
Maybe, if Barca takes one or two goal lead, Enrique may replace Sergi Roberto with another graduate Sergi Samper to formal double pivot so as to take a more defensive approach to the game if the talented youngster makes up the match day squad. This is also supported by the fact that the Blaugranas gave up a two goal lead last summer at the same stadium to end up the match as 2-2 and Enrique will certainly have the memories of that match in his head.
Coming to the defense, this is one aspect of the game that looks the most certain for the Catalans as given Jordi Ala’s return to fitness, Enrique will be literally desperate to field him in place of Thomas Vermaelen at the left back. Thomas Vermaelen is injured and Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique are expected to partner as central defenders although the Argentine has been mistake prone in the last few matches. And finally at the right wing, Dani Alves is the best man to place on the field as his experience at the position and against his former team will be very important for Barca.
And finally, to the goalkeeping position, FC Barcelona’s website reports the Chilean to have taken part in multiple training sessions for the match and it looks more and more certain that he will be the shot-stopper for the fixture that looks to be one of the most difficult encounters for Barcelona in the recent times.
Alves – Piqué – Mascherano – Alba
Rakitic – Busquets – Roberto
Munir – Suárez – Neymar
Now for Unai Emer’s men, midfielder Vitolo (leg) and striker Fernando Llorente (hamstring) are still recovering from injury and are a big doubt for the match. Although, the two players can surprise everyone with a return to the first team squad on Saturday but still the most logical choice for the attacking up front looks to be Kevin Gameiro and Yevhen Konoplyanka. Both of them scored in the memorable 5-4 game in the UEFA Super Cup, so they certainly deserve a lot of attention from Luis Enrique.
The Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán outfit has similar injury concerns as of their competitors as at the least 7 players are on the sidelines facing some sort of injury most of them from defense and midfield with the list including the likes of Beto, Daniel Carrico, Nicolas Pareja, Gael Kakuta, Adil Rami, Ever Banega and Sergio Escudero all sidelined.
Unai Emery is expected to field most of the players that appeared in the 2-0 loss to Juventus in European Cup duty a few days ago. There may be a selection dilemma for the Spaniard to choose between Iborra and Krohn-Dehli at the midfield, but the former holds the advantage as a better attacking option, given the shaky form Catalan defender have shown in the past few days.
Coke – Kolodziejczak – Andreolli – Trémoulinas
N’Zonzi – Krychowiak
Reyes – Iborra – Konoplyanka
Barca manager Luis Enrique will feel a bit optimistic for the game given the injury plethora their opposition face. Nevertheless, this ground has always been one of the trickiest for the Blaugranas and Barca will be hoping for another moment of magic from Suarez and Neymar who was booed by the home fans in the last game to have any hope of coming out with the three points.