Barcelona has had a rare full week of relaxation and training and is now set to begin another busy stretch of critical matches in three different tournaments, beginning this Sunday with a trip to Villarreal in the premier La Liga battle of the weekend.
Barcelona predicted lineup vs Villarreal
The Blaugrana also have a critical Europa League playoff first leg against Manchester United next Thursday, so they have a big week ahead of them. Here is how we believe Barcelona should line up on Sunday.
Barça led the table by eight points and had one of their most complete season games last Sunday against Sevilla. Still, they’ll be tested this weekend against a Villarreal squad that’s played extremely well under former Barça manager Quique Setién.
Despite having a week free, Barça has had a busy start to 2023, and Xavi Hernández must carefully manage his players as the club may play four Europa League knockout games, two Clásicos in two tournaments, and 11 games before the March international break.Xavi must be cautious not to overstretch his players, since Villarreal are dangerous, and keeping the eight-point lead is critical.
Because threading that needle is laborious, this one may only have two or three team changes. Given how much Jules Kounde has played this season, Sergi Roberto should rest him at right-back, while Jordi Alba should keep his spot at left-back after his performance last week. Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen should keep working together in the center. I’ll say it again: Xavi needs to rest Pedri. He tried it against Girona two weeks ago, but an injury caused him to leave after 20 minutes.
Now is the time for Pedri to get at least 45 minutes off and serve as a second-half substitute. Franck Kessie, Pedri’s urgent replacement, performed admirably against Sevilla and is gaining Xavi’s confidence. Frenkie De Jong is the only viable alternative for Sergio Busquets, and Gavi is full of energy. Xavi has nothing to change up front if he can rotate players in midfield and defense.
Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, and Ansu Fati are the only forwards who can start with Ferran Torres out. Raphinha will look to build on his impressive showing against Sevilla, while Fati will look for confidence and consistency on Sunday.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Araujo, Christensen, Alba; Kessie, De Jong, Gavi; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Fati (4-3-3)