Barcelona will look to clinch Champions League round of 16 qualification on Tuesday evening when they entertain FC Porto at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium.
The 1-0 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk away in their last European game complicated Xavi Hernandez’s life in a group they were supposed to cruise through, and now they find themselves in real trouble if things go south again against the second-best team in Group H.
A defeat would leave things wide open ahead of the final matchday and the Catalan giants come into this game off the back of a 1-1 draw with Rayo Vallecano in La Liga.
Barcelona Team News
Marc-Andre ter Stegen missed the trip to Rayo Vallecano with a back injury and was absent from training on Monday once again. But Sergi Roberto returned to training during a light session after the draw away to Rayo Vallecano.
Predicted Barcelona lineup vs FC Porto (4-3-3)
Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s absence will be a big blow to Xavi’s side. In Ter Stegen’s injury absence, Inaki Pena should deputise in between the sticks, as he did in the 1-1 draw with Rayo Vallecano.
In the defensive line, Xavi could go with the centre-back pairing of Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo. Kounde and Araujo will replace Inigo Martinez and Andreas Christensen from the Rayo game, but Joao Cancelo and Alejandro Balde should keep their places at full-back positions.
Both attack-minded full-backs, Cancelo and Balde will have the freedom to maraud forward on the flanks and create opportunities for the attackers, whilst being defensively solid when needed.
Frenkie de Jong marked his return from ankle injury after two months with a classy display against Rayo last weekend. The Dutchman will start again, and his ability to control the pace in midfield is extremely important against a Porto side that loves to press.
De Jong is expected to be joined by Pedri and Ilkay Gundogan in the Barcelona engine room, with Oriol Romeu dropping to the bench. The trio will look to control the tempo of the game and ensure they have the majority of possession. Fermin Lopez and Romeu could get minutes off the bench in the second half.
With no room for Ferran and Lamine Yamal, Raphinha and Joao Felix step up to run out on either side of striker Robert Lewandowski against Porto. Raphinha had an impactful cameo against Rayo to increase his case for a start here, while Felix should get another chance on the left to regain his form show in the first weeks as a Barcelona player.
Lewandowski will be the hosts’ biggest threat going forward, and the Polish striker will be desperate to get on the scoresheet against Porto and help his team qualify for the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
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