Philippe Coutinho should start in all the fixtures and is a perfect replacement for the departed Andres Iniesta.
Post their hard-fought 3-0 and 1-0 victories over Alaves and Real Valladolid in La Liga, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde knows that he still has some work to do. In the opening 45 minutes in Gameweek 1, the reigning champions seemed to be on an equal wavelength against a team who finished 14th last season and should not be held in similar comparison to the Catalan outfit. The situation was such that the former Athletic Bilbao coach resorted to some panic changes after halftime.
Although those changes worked in his favour, it won’t happen always, especially against better opponents like the Madrid clubs. Against Valladolid, he implemented his go-to formation, which backfired due to the pitch conditions at the Estadio José Zorrilla, that worsened after kick-off.
In the first fixture, Philippe Coutinho’s arrival after the interval paid off, as the Blaugrana lacked that extra creative edge. But then, last weekend proved to be a baptism by fire for the Catalans, as they just couldn’t find a way past the opposition defense (or rather the pitch), with Ousmane Dembele finding the net in a rather lacklustre performance.
In this article, we at Khel Now will show you what the Spanish tactician’s starting XI should look like in La Liga this season:
Marc-André ter Stegen (Goalkeeper)
The German is an obvious choice to start between the sticks. After the departure of Claudio Bravo, fans and critics were unsure about the former Bundesliga shot-stopper, but he has slowly made the custodian’s position his own.
In both the matches, he displayed his sweeper-keeper skills. Particularly, against Deportivo, he made a deft flick over an opposition attacker in a situation which seemed dangerous, but the 26-year-old displayed an aura of calm and confidence, which has been a constant since last season. Since his arrival, he has slowly built a decent level of understanding with the back four, consisting of Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto, and Jordi Alba.
Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba (Defenders)
After the transfer of Dani Alves to Juventus, former manager Luis Enrique thrusted Sergi Roberto into the right-back position, without caring to even look at the transfer market. Criticised earlier, the La Masia graduate has made the position his with marauding runs down the flank in all games.
The arrival of Nelson Semedo last season led to a presumption that Valverde would bench Roberto or shift him back to his natural position in midfield. But, over the course of the last campaign, the wing-back position became natural to the versatile 26-year-old. His work-ethic has never been questioned and has led to him being placed fourth in the captaincy hierarchy for this term.
The acquisition of Samuel Umtiti from Lyon meant an obvious end to the much-heralded La Liga career of Javier Mascherano. Although the French World Cup winner hasn’t reached the heights achieved by the Argentine in his club career yet, he is expected to marshal the defense for years to come. With the ever-present Gerard Pique and Umtiti, Barcelona have an experienced pair of goalscoring centre-backs.
The left side of defense has always belonged to Jordi Alba since he came to Camp Nou and the club has never looked back. The Spanish international has become an integral part of the team’s defending and attacking, with whiplash-like runs down the left and has also built an immaculate connection with Lionel Messi since last season.
Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Philippe Coutinho (Midfielders)
Most new Catalan faithful have only seen one defensive midfielder in the La Liga club’s lineup and its Sergio Busquets. Tutored under the philosophy of Johan Cruyff in the academy, the 30-year-old is the pivot of this team. He is the main interceptor in front of the backline and also the fulcrum of the team’s build-up play.
Along with Croatian maestro Ivan Rakitic, it is their job to do the rough work in the middle of the park and leave most of the artistry to Coutinho. The Brazilian should start in most games and is a perfect replacement for the departed Andres Iniesta. The former Liverpool man was fantastic in the World Cup and had an instant impact in his club’s first match, after coming on as a substitute.
Rakitic, Busquets, and Coutinho are the obvious choices to start in midfield. Although, there will be a lot of competition after the arrival of Arturo Vidal and Arthur.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele (Forwards)
Upfront, the Catalans have a plethora of experience in the guise of Messi and Luis Suarez. Both the South Americans have built a glorious partnership over the years and are expected to carry the mantle forward this term too.
This season is a golden opportunity for Dembele to prove his mettle in front of the cules. We all know that the Frenchman is talented, but last campaign was filled with injuries, albeit a few flashes of brilliance were on display whenever he was available. It is widely known that he possesses amazing dribbling skills and vision, which needs to be nurtured by Messi and Co.
This season he started with a sublime goal against Sevilla in the Spanish Supercopa Espana but was more or less invisible against Alaves. In the second match, he put in a poor display and lost the ball multiple times. But, he made up for all his mistakes with the only goal of the game. Without any doubt, the former Rennes player should start ahead of Malcom.
Playing Dembele, Suarez, and Messi together is an obvious choice, which Valverde needs to implement in his starting XI.