FC Barcelona will begin their La Liga title defence tonight, August 16. However, the Catalan club has been handed a major blow before the season even began, with Lionel Messi being ruled out due to an injury. Nevertheless, the league champions have enough strength in depth and here is how they could line up.
Probable Barcelona XI – without Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi will be a big loss for Football Club Barcelona in the early weeks of the season. The Argentine forward was ruled out of the league opener with an injury but has already stepped up his recovery.
However, the loss of Messi should not trouble Barcelona in their season opener, for which they travel to Bilbao to face Athletic Club.
With the loss of Messi, the sale of Malcom and the uncertainty surrounding the future of Philippe Coutinho, the forward line picks itself. That means that French pair Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann are likely to be deployed either side of Luis Suarez – an attacking trident which Barcelona used extensively in their final few friendlies.
The selection headache for Ernesto Valverde, meanwhile, starts with the midfield. The Blaugrana currently have Ivan Rakitic, Rafinha, Frenkie de Jong, Arthur, Sergio Busquests, and even Sergi Roberto as midfield options, with only three available for selection. As such, the Spaniard is expected to pick Sergio Busquets, who will most likely be the first name on the teamsheet, along with Arthur and De Jong to complete his midfield trifecta.
Further down, Jordi Alba is expected to retain his position in the team despite the signing of Junior Firpo. On the other flank, Nelson Semedo is likely to get the nod ahead of Moussa Wague and Roberto, with the latter reportedly being moved up to midfield.
In defence, Gerard Pique is expected to start, barring any last-minute complications. Samuel Umtiti, now fully fit, is likely to partner Pique ahead of his international teammate Clement Lenglet. Marc Andre Ter Stegen is expected to get the nod in goal.
Barcelona haven’t lost on the opening day of the season since 2008/09 when they were handed a shock defeat by Numancia. Furthermore, the Blaugrana faced Athletic Club on the first day back of the season in 2015/16, registering a narrow win in the process courtesy of a goal from Luis Suarez.