Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha are set to make their competitive debuts for Barcelona when they take on Rayo Vallecano in La Liga.
Barcelona will lock horns with Andoni Iraola’s Rayo Vallecano side in their 2022/23 La Liga season opener at Spotify Camp Nou later tonight on Saturday. And heading into the game, manager Xavi Hernandez has received a huge boost on the team news front.
After a week filled with doubt, Barcelona have been able to register four of their five new signings, with Jules Kounde missing out. Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto, who signed new contracts this summer, have also been successfully registered, while Ferran Torres has recovered from injury and is available for selection.
Xavi has no other injury concerns heading into the game and will have a nearly full-strength roster at his disposal. However, Sergino Dest has been omitted from the 23-man squad that Xavi has named for the contest, amidst speculations surrounding the USMNT ace’s future. With the youngster unavailable, Ronald Araujo could be asked to fill in at right-back for Barcelona against Rayo Vallecano.
Should the Uruguayan star slot in at right-back, Andreas Christensen and Eric Garcia could form the centre-back pairing, as Gerard Pique is being used judiciously due to his injury woes. Meanwhile, Jordi Alba should be the preferred option at left-back ahead of youngster Alejandro Balde. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will be guarding the Barcelona goal.
Moving into the middle of the park, Barcelona have a plethora of options in Gavi, Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong, Miralem Pjanic and new signing Franck Kessie. Youngster Pablo Torre has not been called up by manager Xavi. But question marks remain over the involvement of de Jong amidst the never-ending speculations surrounding his future.
Addressing the Dutchman’s situation in his pre-match presser (h/t Barca Blaugranes), Xavi said: “He’s an important player, he’s part of the squad, I can use him. Great. From now until the 31st we’ll see what opportunities there are and where we are regards our participation in the market. From now until the 31st, anything can happen, with Frenkie and with many players of the squad. Things can happen.”
Despite what Xavi is saying, it is unlikely that de Jong will feature from the start on Saturday. Instead, the midfield trio of Kessie, Busquets and Pedri is likely to take the field against Rayo Vallecano this weekend.
Robert Lewandowski, following his successful registration, should spearhead the Barcelona attack against Rayo. Talking about the qualities that the Pole brings to the table, Xavi said: “He’s a goalscorer, more than that he’s a difference maker inside the area and how he understands the game. He makes a lot of space for his teammates and interprets space very well. We can play very well with him and he gives us a lot of quality.”
Lewandowski should line up as the main centre-forward, flanked by fellow new signing Raphinha on one side and the dangerous Ousmane Dembele on the other. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres will be options from the bench.
Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen, Araujo, Christensen, Garcia, Alba, Kessie, Busquets, Pedri, Raphinha, Lewandowski, Dembele.