Life has not been good for Xavi since he took over management responsibilities at Barcelona. Injuries, contract issues and a lack of adequate funding have marred his (admittedly short) tenure thus far.
Before their next match against Mallorca on January 2, 2022, Barcelona will likely have up to 16 (!) players missing.
Seven – Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Alejandro Baldi, Samuel Umtiti, Ousmane Dembele, Gavi and Clement Lengli – have tested positive for coronavirus.
Six – Ansu Fati, Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite, Pedri, Sergio Dest, and Sergi Roberto – through injury.
The remaining three are Ferran Torres – who will not be available due to registration issues – Yusef Demir – isolated to determine his future – and Sergio Busquets – on hold.
In light of this, the formation of the starting lineup becomes increasingly difficult for Xavi.
The Spaniard can pursue two solutions in this way. The first is if the situation in which the youth team players are involved does not change – both in terms of La Liga rules and scoring.
In this case, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start in goal as he does, protected by a four-man defense. Gerard Pique and Ronaldo Araujo will take charge at the center of the defence, while Eric Garcia and Oscar Mengueza will play the roles of right and left backs, respectively.
Either Frankie De Jong or Nico Gonzalez can be used together in a dual axle.
While it’s a temporary solution, having four central defenders behind can help. Ricky Puig could start in his favorite role as an attacking midfielder in this 4-2-3-1 game.
Abdel-Samad’s interim future remains skeptical regarding the Africa Cup of Nations, but we assume he will be available for the match, at least. He starts on the left, with Ferran Gutlja right wing. And Luke de Jong as the only striker.
Barcelona’s first scenario will be (4-2-3-1): Stegen; Eric, Aruajo; Pique, Mingueza; de Jong, Nico; Gutgla, Puig, Abdul-Samad; look
La Liga rules state that if a first-team player receives a red card when the team has more than three young players in the starting lineup, the match will be forfeited, and the win awarded to the opponent. Nico was on the bench against Sevilla and Alche for the same reason.
However, there have been reports claiming that Barcelona will look to officially promote Nico and Gavi to the first team to avoid this rule. If they can make it happen early on the first day of the year, a youth player can join Xavi’s plan.
Oscar Mingueza will likely be dropped on the bench, and it is assumed that Elias Akhmash or Guillem Jaime could play at right-back. Abdelsamad will take charge on the left, along with Pique, Araujo and Garcia. The Moroccan player’s skills will be especially useful in this offensive setup.
The three midfielders hold their positions – Nico and de Jong start as a double pivot, while Puig will be the best.
Luc de Jong should continue in any case due to the lack of players, while Gottgla shares him in a double striker partnership.
Playing 3-4-1-2 with upside down wingers is risky, but Xavi has shown a willingness to take risks in order to get results. Moreover, de Jong and Nico’s work rate, along with some extra effort on the part of Elias and Abdul Samad, can get the wheels moving perfectly.
Barcelona’s second scenario will be as follows (3-4-1-2): Stegen; Araujo, Pique, Eric; Elias, de Jong; Nico, Abdel-Samad; Puig. Gotgla, Luke