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Predicting the Barcelona Starting Lineup to Face Bayern Munich

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 10:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match between Barcelona and Paris St Germain at Nou Camp on April 10, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Samuel MarsdenChief Writer IVJanuary 10, 2017

Tito Vilanova has a couple of questions which need answering when he sits down on Monday or Tuesday to decide his team to start at the Allianz Arena.

Should he use Lionel Messi from the start, or leave him on the bench?

Who should partner Gerard Pique in the center of Barca's defense?

On Monday morning, Catalan sports newspapers Mundo Deportivo and Sport carried Messi on their front covers. They don't doubt that he will start in Munich.

The Argentinian limped off at halftime in the first leg against PSG, then returned a week later to help seal La Blaugrana's progression from the bench, but has not played since.

Expectations now are that he will start, that he has to start. His impact against the French side in the quarterfinals dealt just as many mental blows as physical ones—Barca will need both of those aspects against recently crowned Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Then we come to the back five, where four players pick themselves; Victor Valdes, Pique, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba.

Who joins them is where the question mark remains. Adriano and Eric Abidal were the pairing that played against Levante on Saturday, with Marc Bartra unused from the bench.

Despite how well he played, Vilanova will likely not be prepared to use Abidal for 180 minutes over a four day period. With Adriano suspended and Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol injured, logic suggests that Bartra will start.

The 22-year-old defender played half an hour at Camp Nou against PSG and 10 minutes against them at the Parc des Princes.

Elsewhere, questions will probably be asked about one more position in La Blaugrana's 11.

At one point this season, their front six became predictable. Cesc Fabregas played centrally and Andres Iniesta played on the left of the front three.

Iniesta has found himself back in the central role now, while Fabregas has recently found himself out of the side in favor of David Villa.

The inclusion of Villa for the second leg against AC Milan—when Barca won 4-0—proved a master stroke. However, currently out of form, there are thoughts he may not start on Tuesday night.

He played the full 90 minutes against Levante and missed a penalty. When Cristian Tello was the man substituted, he seemed almost disappointed it wasn't him—as if he knew what playing the whole match would mean.

It isn't Fabregas who is expected to replace him, though.

Alexis Sanchez—who started in Paris—is the front-runner to join Messi and Pedro Rodriguez in Barcelona's front three, tasked with grabbing some vital away goals to bring back to Catalonia.

 

Barcelona squad to face Bayern Munich:

Victor Valdes, Jose Pinto, Oier Olazabal;

Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Eric Abidal, Martin Montoya, Marc Bartra, Jordi Alba;

Francesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara, Jonathan Dos Santos, Sergio Busquets, Alex Song;

Pedro Rodriguez, Cristian Tello, David Villa, Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi

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