Barcelona is set to host Dutch giants Ajax on Wednesday in the first match of the Champions League group stage. The Catalan outfit will be looking to field their strongest possible starting XI, but manager Tata Martino will not have an easy time selecting a lineup.
With several players competing for a starting spot and injuries also weighing in, picking a starting XI will be difficult. Yet that is exactly what we will do in this article.
So continue reading to find out just how Barcelona should line up against their Dutch visitors. Also don’t forget to have your say on who will be victorious at the Camp Nou.
Before looking at how Barcelona will line up defensively against Ajax it is important to note that there is no question about who will be in goal.
Victor Valdes is hands down Barcelona’s number one keeper and has played in every game for La Blaugrana so far this season. He will be the man between the sticks for the Catalans against Ajax and will need to be a vocal leader behind his defenders.
There is also little debate over which center-backs will feature against Ajax. Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano have been Tata Martino’s first choice pairing and that will not be changing anytime soon.
Dani Alves is also expected to start at his beloved right-back position as he has already played a pivotal role this season.
The only major change in the Blaugrana defense will be at left-back.
According to reports from Barcelona’s official website, Jordi Alba suffered a torn thigh muscle in the club’s last fixture and will be unavailable for several weeks.
With Alba on the sidelines, Brazilian Adriano will most likely be the man starting opposite Alves. Missing Alba will be tough for Barcelona, but Adriano has proven time and again that he is more than capable of stepping in when needed.
Barcelona is known for having some of the most dominant midfielders in the world. Clearly, they will need to be at their very best against Ajax if the Catalan club is to leave the Camp Nou with a well-deserved three points.
Sergio Busquets will be one of the first names on the team sheet as he is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the game and has earned the right to start every match for Barcelona.
However, the remaining two midfield spots in the starting lineup are really up in the air at this point.
Cesc Fabregas has been in electrifying form since the start of the new season giving four assists already and averaging over three key passes per game.
Xavi has paired up several times with Fabregas already this season but has surprisingly been upstaged by his Catalan counterpart. The 33-year-old has already scored a goal this season but has only created seven scoring chances without having an assist.
The last midfielder in the running to start against Ajax is Spanish World Cup hero Andres Iniesta.
If this were last season there would be no question about Iniesta as he was the best player on the Barcelona squad not named Lionel Messi. But the 29-year-old has not been in his best form this season.
It is most likely that Fabregas will be in the starting lineup as Barcelona will need his direct style of play and creativity to create chances.
Xavi may be in better form than Iniesta at this point but that will not earn him a starting place.
Iniesta’s ability to link up with the forwards is incredible and will pair up well with the creativity of Fabregas.
If there are any players that are guaranteed to start against Ajax it would be Lionel Messi and Neymar. The dynamic duo is still learning how to play together but there is no debating their roles for Barcelona.
However, the third forward spot in the starting lineup is wide open.
Cristian Tello is one of the wingers fighting for his place in the starting XI but is very unlikely to start. The 22-year-old continues to show promise but is right now the third option behind Alexis Sanchez and Pedro.
Sanchez and Pedro will be the two in contention to start up front for Barcelona but they will certainly give Martino a selection migraine.
Both wingers have posted identical statistics this season having both scored two goals and given one assist.
Effectively, Martino will not be able to choose a starter based on form. On the contrary, the manager will have to decide which winger provides the best unique ability against Ajax.
The case can be made for either player but the most likely starter will be Alexis Sanchez.
The 24-year-old contributes much more defensively than Pedro and has done a much better job linking up play with his teammates this season. His work rate is impeccable and he will prove irritating for Ajax to deal with all night.
Barcelona has no shortage of options up front but will certainly be fielding their very best. Ajax must be prepared for a long night of defending.
In truth, no matter who starts for Barcelona the Catalans will be favorites against Ajax at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona wants to prove the critics wrong. After a humiliating elimination from last season’s Champions League, the Catalans want to get back to showing their best in European competition.
Everything begins with the match against Ajax. The road to European glory begins at the Camp Nou for Barcelona and fans should be prepared for a dominant showing from La Blaugrana.
Predicted Barcelona Starting XI:
Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Adriano, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez
How will Barcelona line up against Ajax? Will the Catalans cruise to victory or stumble against their opponents? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Barcelona and all Spanish football!