Barcelona will look to keep their lead atop the league standings as they travel to face Mallorca at El Sadar on Tuesday.
The Catalan side will do so without both Pedri and Frenkie de Jong. The Dutchman was subbed out in the first half in their match against Celta Vigo. It was later revealed the injury he suffered is set to keep him out until November.
“Mallorca is a difficult opponent,” Xavi Hernandez said in his pre-match press conference. “They have a lot to offer in defense and work very well for each other. They are physically very strong and have direct approach players like Muriqui and Darder. And this won’t be an easy away trip against a team that wants to bounce back after such a big loss as the one to Girona.”
Mallorca lost 5-3 to the aforementioned Girona. The score somewhat flattering Javier Aguirre’s side as they scored their second in the 88th minute and the third in the 95th.
Aguirre is likely to set up Mallorca defensively to try to close down spaces and do something similar to what Rafa Benitez deployed with Celta Vigo.
It’s going to be another test for Xavi as he’s yet to find a real solution to break down teams who are comfortable ceding possession and sit deep.
Xavi also knows they need to improve from the display against Celta. Even though they got the win, aside from that span of eight minutes where they scored three goals, Barcelona were second best throughout.
“We are competing well, and in general we’re playing good football,” Xavi said. “But I’d still like to see more mobility from my forwards and we need to attack spaces better. We can get so much more out of this attack, they need to work more on their positioning. But even though we had a bad game against Celta, we are on the right track.”
It will be interesting to see who Xavi decides to play in attack. The only attacking player who can instantly be penciled in is Robert Lewandowski. As for who accompanies him, it’s anyone’s guess.
Having started on the bench the last game, Raphinha is likely to start.
That then leaves one spot left, presumably slated for João Félix who has developed a good understanding with Lewandowski. Ferran Torres had a poor game last time out and Xavi is taking things slowly with Lamine Yamal.
Last season, Barcelona struggled to 1-0 win at El Sadar with Lewandowski scoring the lone goal.
Barcelona need to find some consistency and a balance between the performances against Real Betis and Royal Antwerp and to the one against Celta Vigo.
Cancelo – Araújo – Martinez – Balde
Gundogan – Romeu – Gavi
Raphinha – Lewandowski – Félix