Barcelona will be looking to extend their lead at the top of La Liga standings when they make the short trip to local rivals Espanyol on Saturday.
The Blaugrana got back to winning ways last week at the Camp Nou, beating Villarreal 2-0 courtesy of goals from Gerard Pique and Carles Alena, a result that saw them move above Sevilla who could only manage a draw away to Alaves.
Having already qualified for the last 16 in the Champions League, Barca manager Ernesto Valverde is expected to field his strongest side against Espanyol in the Catalan derby.
Here is how Barcelona could lineup on Saturday.
1. Goalkeeper & Defenders
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – Since joining Barcelona from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2014, ter Stegen has established himself as the club’s first choice keeper. The German international is widely considered as one of the best shot stoppers in world football yet he has only managed to keep three clean sheets this season, a record he will be hoping to improve against Espanyol on Saturday.
Nelson Semedo (RB) – With Sergi Roberto not expected to return until January due to a hamstring injury, Semedo is almost certain to make his tenth appearance of the season for the Blaugrana.
Gerard Pique (CB) – An ever-present figure at the back for Barcelona over the past decade, Pique has won 27 honours with the club, making him one of the most successful defenders in the history of Spanish football. Scoring in his last two games, the 31-year-old has impressed in recent weeks after a slow start to the season.
Clement Lenglet (CB) – French defender Lenglet moved to the Camp Nou in the summer from Sevilla for £32m and is considered by many to be the long term replacement for Pique. With Samuel Umtiti suffering from a recurring knee injury, Lenglet is expected to start at the weekend in the Catalan derby.
Jordi Alba (LB) – Having featured in all 14 of Barcelona’s games this season, Alba has enjoyed an impressive start to this year’s campaign, providing five assists from full-back. The former Valencia defender’s consistency this season earned him a recall to the Spain side in November.
Sergio Busquets (CM) – A master at controlling the tempo in Barcelona’s midfield, Busquets has orchestrated his side to success for a decade, making over 300 league appearances since 2008. Always one of the first names on the team sheet for Valverde’s side, the 30-year-old is expected to make his 15th appearance of the season against Espanyol.
Arturo Vidal (CM) – With Arthur facing a race to be fit for the Catalan derby, Vidal is likely to keep his place in central midfield for Barcelona. The former Juventus and Bayern Munich enforcer has started the last two games for his new club and will be looking to establish himself as a key player for Valverde over the coming weeks.
Ivan Rakitic (CM) – The Croatian playmaker has experienced a mixed start to the season for Barcelona after performing brilliantly for his country in the World Cup during the summer. Rakitic has registered six assists in all competitions for the Blaugrana but was recently red carded in a shock home defeat to Real Betis.
Lionel Messi (RW) – Barcelona’s all-time record goalscorer, Messi has been nothing short of sensational this season, scoring 15 goals and providing nine assists in just sixteen games. The Argentinian superstar bagged a hat-trick against Espanyol at the Camp Nou last season and will feature in his 32nd Catalan derby on Saturday.
Luis Suarez (ST) – After missing his side’s 2-0 victory over Villarreal last week due to injury, Suarez is expected to return for the Blaugrana against Espanyol. The 31-year-old striker is Barcelona’s joint top scorer in the League this season with nine and will be looking to add to his tally at the weekend.
Philippe Coutinho (LW) – Since joining Barcelona from Liverpool for a club-record fee of £142m in January, Coutinho has made an impressive start to his career under Valverde. The Brazilian returned from injury last week and is expected to start as part of the Blaugrana’s fearsome front three.