Barcelona is set to play their third match in a span of seven days when they host Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Understandably, manager Xavi Hernandez is likely to rotate his side and give players who haven’t had much playing time some minutes.
“I am ecstatic with these footballers,” Xavi said in his pre-match press conference. “Lamine, Rafa and Ferran… There is an important physical load that requires a tremendous intensity, that is why there are a lot of changes. We need fresh players.”
Expect to see some changes in their league fixture against Celta.
According to Xavi, there are going to be at least two changes stating that they need every player at their best level.
As to where those changes might be, he was less open to divulge that information.
Changes in defense could be a good place to start as Andreas Christensen and Jules Koundé played the entire match midweek against Royal Antwerp. Christensen has had to leave a couple of games this season with a knock. Koundé, on the other hand, has played every possible minute and could be due for a rest.
Iñigo Martinez could be slated for his first start as the former Athletic Bilbao center-back didn’t play in their Champions League fixture. Ronald Araújo received the medical green light and is back from his injury. Though given his history, he may be eased back in and be a second-half substitute.
Midfield may be the only area where Xavi might not make any changes. Oriol Romeu didn’t start midweek and is likely to be back in the side. Frenkie de Jong might be given a rest with the remaining midfield made up of Gavi and Ilkay Gundogan.
The forward line has been the one tinkered with most often.
João Félix has started back-to-back matches and Xavi may want to ride the hot hand with him. With the return of Raphinha, Lamine Yamal has seen his minutes reduced. Given his age, that could start being the norm as to not put so much pressure on him.
Robert Lewandowski may be the odd man out as he too had played nearly every minute so far this season. With no natural back-up striker, Ferran Torres might be given a shot as he’s played very well and is in the midst of a resurgence.
The idea behind the rotation is to keep everyone fresh as the fixture schedule starts piling up. At the same time, Xavi doesn’t want to tinker too much and have a disoriented team on the pitch. Too often when Barcelona give some of their starters a rest, the team clearly suffers from it.
With more quality depth, the hope is that won’t happen against a Celta Vigo side that tends to give Barcelona their fair share of headaches and defeats. Celta may sit 16th in the table but they already know what it’s like to beat the Catalan side in Barcelona.
Cancelo – Kounde – Martinez – Balde
Gundogan – Romeu -Gavi
Raphinha – Torres – Félix