?Barcelona kicked off the La Liga season against Athletic Bilbao in the worst possible fashion. A late wonder goal from veteran Aritz Aduriz shocked the reigning champions as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat.
Without Lionel Messi, Barcelona looked a shadow of the side they should be, and struggled to create anything in the final third throughout the game.
They now return to the Nou Camp this weekend to take on Real Betis – but this time Messi should be available for selection. However, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both miss the game after suffering knocks against Bilbao.
Barca will be desperate to get three points on the board and not give Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid head starts in the title race. Here’s how they should line up against Betis.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
?Marc-Andre ter Stegen – No doubts about this one. Ter Stegen
Nelson Semedo (RB) – The right back has seemingly made the position his own after pipping Sergi Roberto to the spot last week. Semedo may have given Aduriz too much space for the goal, but he doesn’t deserve to be dropped for that and will continue his run at right back.
Gerard Pique (CB) – Like Ter Stegen, there is no doubt about ?Pique’s place in the team. Similarly to Semedo, he maybe gave Aduriz too much space for the goal. Aside from that, he has been a world class defender for many years and will definitely start this weekend.
Clement Lenglet (CB) – Lenglet came into the team Samuel Umtiti suffered a serious injury, and he’s kept his place ever since. A calm customer who has become a popular figure among Barca fans, he is most certainly going to start again this weekend.
Jordi Alba (LB) – Alba faces competition for his place from Junior Firpo this season, but right now, he remains a key cog in the Barcelona machine. A lot of the time without Messi, he is the team’s most potent attacking threat, and he isn’t too bad defensively either.
Sergio Busquets (CM) – Busquets surprisingly didn’t play a minute against Bilbao, signalling the fact that Ernesto Valverde is looking to rotate the midfielder, and use him sparingly as he gets older. The arrival of De Jong also gives the Spaniard the opportunity to be rested throughout the season. However, after Barca’s shock opening day defeat, Busquets should be restored to the side to inject some much needed class in the midfield.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – The classy new signing wasn’t able to make a huge mark against Bilbao, but showed some moments of class that suggests he will be one of the world’s best midfielders. Nothing much more to say besides the fact that he is a guaranteed starter.
Arthur (CM) – It is pretty clear now that Arthur is one of the main men in this Barca set up, seemingly taking the place of Ivan Rakitic. He started last season fantastically, but fell away towards the end of the campaign. However, now trusted as one of Valverde’s key midfielders, consistency is the key for Arthur, and he will be allowed to showcase his talent once again.
Antoine Griezmann (RW) – Griezmann played against Bilbao from the left-wing – a position he isn’t too familiar with. This was reflected in his performance, as he simply just failed to get going. However, the big money signing will most certainly start this weekend, and probably from an area of the pitch he enjoys more.
Lionel Messi (CF) – Despite just returning to full training, it seems that the main man is set to come straight back into the team. This probably wouldn’t happen if Suarez was fit, but due to a lack of options, it is likely that they will put ?Messi into the XI.
Carles Perez (LW) – An outstanding opportunity presents itself now for the 21-year-old with Suarez and Dembele sustaining unfortunate injuries. Perez will be looking to take his chance now and let the manager know that he deserves a fair share of first team football.