Atletico Madrid vs FC Barcelona: 5 things to look forward to
#4 How will Ernesto Valverde line-up his starting 11?
At the moment not many players are confirmed of their starting spots in the team. The only people who are sure to make the 11 are Marc Andre Ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Arthur Melo, Lionel Messi, and Luis Suarez. Which means there are still four spots which are to be confirmed.
The first spot is the right-back spot. Sergi Roberto was extremely poor against Real Betis at right-back and he didn't impress as such in the Nations League. Nelson Semedo is certainly a better defender and has as much pace as Sergi. But the problem with starting him is that he is out of match practice. Even world class players look rusty when out of match practice, Semedo is just a young kid.
The next spot is the center back spot. Clement Lenglet has impressed in Samuel Umtiti's absence for Barcelona. Now Umtiti is fit to play again. Anyone would prefer Umtiti over Lenglet while facing Atletico Madrid. But the problem is, Umtiti is out of match practice as well. A return from injury in a major away game is not the best idea. Lenglet could be trusted as Atletico's attacks are not a very major threat.
Coming to the forward positions, the left wing is vacant. Phillipe Coutinho missed the friendlies with Brazil and also the Real Betis game due to a hamstring injury. If Coutinho is absent, then the only choices are Dembele and Malcom, both equally raw talents. Dembele has been losing possession a lot of times and Malcom has just not played enough to start against Atletico Madrid. But still, any one of them could start.
The last spot comes due to Ivan Rakitic's suspension and also injury. Rakitic will be sidelined for more games. If Phillipe Coutinho is somehow fit, then he can start either at left wing or in the midfield. Otherwise, Carles Alena and Arturo Vidal are favorites to start at the midfield. Vidal seems a better option in terms of experience.
It is up to the gaffer to decide the teams and it will be interesting to look at his choices.