Xavi has had to deal with a mountain of injuries at the start of 2023/24 season which has seen Barcelona struggle through the opening act of their title defence.
While they haven’t been especially dazzling on the eye at times, Barca have nonetheless been productive. The Catalans head into Saturday’s El Clasico just a point off Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, while their victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday meant they maintained their 100% start to the group stage.
Xavi is hopeful of welcoming back several stars key to their success last season back to the fold soon, with the Catalonian media citing Saturday’s Clasico as the potential return date for Barca’s current absentees.
Barcelona predicted lineup vs Real Madrid (4-3-3)
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Barcelona’s backline hasn’t been quite as stringent compared to last season, but Ter Stegen has nonetheless already kept four La Liga clean sheets on home soil.
RB: Joao Cancelo – It’ll be interesting to see where a maverick like Cancelo fits in on Saturday given Xavi will likely approach the contest with caution.
CB: Ronald Araujo – The dominant Uruguayan has previously had success one-on-one against Vinicius Junior but Real Madrid’s system change means we won’t see a strict man-marking job this weekend.
CB: Andreas Christensen – Christensen has arguably played his best football alongside Jules Kounde, but the Frenchman misses out this weekend due to injury.
LB: Alejandro Balde – The young left-back earned minutes off the bench in midweek and should be fresh for Saturday’s Clasico.
DM: Oriol Romeu – The cautious Romeu has a huge role to play in all phases against a stellar Madrid midfield. Can the veteran metronome slow down Jude Bellingham?
CM: Fermin Lopez – La Masia’s Lopez has impressed in almost all of his appearances so far this seaosn and was on the scoresheet against Shakhtar Donetsk. Xavi could welcome Frenkie de Jong back to the fold, but Lopez deserves his big chance.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – These were the sorts of games Gundogan had a habit of turning up in towards the end of his Manchester City career. Xavi needs the very best of the German this weekend.
RW: Lamine Yamal – The record-breaking youngster has all the makings of a superstar and the very best tend to save their most majestic brilliance for games of this magnitude.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – There’s optimism surrounding the striker’s status for Saturday and Xavi will start Lewandowski if the Pole believes he’s ready to go.
LW: Gavi – Xavi has rarely opted for this ploy at the start of 2023/24, but he could revert to it against a compact Madrid side. The Barca boss could ask Gavi to tuck in from a wide left position in a bid to match Madrid in the middle of the park.