Barcelona head into the match on Saturday against Real Madrid as slight underdogs despite playing at home.
The main reason is the fact they are still without Pedri, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong and Jules Kounde. All five of them are out injured and is unknown whether or not Xavi Hernandez will be able to count on them for El Clasico.
Every team goes through injuries but Barcelona have been hit particularly hard considering all five of them are starters.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel for Xavi and the Catalan side as all of those players took part in the training session on Friday. However, whether any of them will feature against Real Madrid is very much up in the air.
“The sensations during the session were very good,” Xavi said in his pre-match press conference. “We will see how they feel later and will name the squad on Saturday. It’s fantastic to have them all back training.
“Players we had ruled out want to play. Everyone is making a huge effort because they want to be involved in El Clasico, but we won’t start anyone who is not 100%.”
While it’s perfectly understandable for the players to want to play in a match of this magnitude, Xavi cannot take any unnecessary risks. Against Real Madrid, it is always going to be a big occasion and a match Barcelona always want to win.
But they have to think longer term.
If Xavi risks playing Frenkie de Jong or Pedri, he runs the risk of them getting further injured and being back at square one. Pedri in particular has missed large chunks of the season the past few years, much to the club’s detriment.
Playing players who have spent weeks, or months, on the sidelines is also a risk because the lack match fitness. An El Clasico is a match where players need to be at their best.
Out of all the aforementioned players, it seems like Raphinha and Lewandowski are the two best positioned to make the squad list. The Brazilian is expected to get the medical green light ahead of the match whereas the club will see how Lewandowski feels after having taken part in the training session.
Having one, or both, back could leave Xavi with some room to tinker and give him the option to start with four midfielders, like he’s done in previous clashes against Madrid. With Lewandowski, it’s still a risk and he’s unlikely to be able to play the full 90 minutes.
As mentioned, it’s a game Barcelona want to win but it’s not necessarily a must win. A loss would see them fall four points behind of the top spot. But it’s still October and there’s plenty of season left to play.
Losing a Clasico would definitely hurt but it by no means would derail their season or leave them out of the league title picture.
Cancelo – Araujo – Christensen – Balde
Fermin Lopez – Gundogan – Gavi
Raphinha – Ferran Torres – Joao Felix