Jules Kounde will be unavailable again while Frenkie de Jong and Miralem Pjanic should start when Barcelona face Real Sociedad in La Liga.

Barcelona will be pushing to pick up their first win of the 2022/23 La Liga season when they lock horns with Real Sociedad at the Reale Arena on Sunday night. Leading up to the game, Barcelona continue to be mired in player registration issues and have been unsuccessful in registering Jules Kounde, who will have to wait to make his official debut for the Catalans.

Speaking about the Frenchman’s situation in his presser on Saturday, manager Xavi Hernandez had said (h/t Barca Blaugranes): “We’re still waiting. The squad list will be available tomorrow. It’s all on standby at the moment. There is no news for now.” Barcelona have since gone on to release the official matchday squad list for the game, and Kounde is missing as expected.

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Apart from Kounde, Barcelona will also be without captain Sergio Busquets, who is suspended for the game after being sent off against Rayo Vallecano in the opener. Xavi does not have any other injury or suspension-related absences but has opted to leave the likes of Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti and Sergino Dest out of the squad.

Dest’s exclusion means Barcelona will again be without a natural right-back for Sunday’s game, due to which Ronald Araujo should again feature as a makeshift right-sided full-back at the Anoeta. On the opposite flank, Jordi Alba is expected to hold on to his spot in the side but is under pressure to perform as Alejandro Balde waits in the wings.

Andreas Christensen and Eric Garcia should again form the centre-back partnership for Barcelona on Sunday, with Gerard Pique being an option from the bench. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will line up under the woodwork for the Blaugrana and look to thwart Alexander Isak & co. from breaching the goal.

Busquets’ unavailability opens up a can of worms for Barcelona as they do not have a like-for-like replacement or the Spaniard. Miralem Pjanic could be given a chance to impress in the role after the Bosnian managed to convince the manager to not sell him this summer. Meanwhile, Pedri is a certain starter in one of the two remaining slots in midfield.

As for the remaining spot, Frenkie de Jong could get a starting berth in place of Gavi after the Dutchman’s impact from the bench in the last game. Expressing his admiration for the midfielder, Xavi said: “I see him playing with the ball, like when I was a player. I want him to adapt, play in front of the ball. He’s an amazing player, so he needs to be there. He is strong, powerful, he arrives well to the opponent’s box, he’s a player I like a lot.”

The front three of Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Ousmane Dembele should remain unchanged, although they will need to be much sharper than they were against Sociedad.

Barcelona Predicted XI: ter Stegen, Araujo, Christensen, Garcia, Alba, de Jong, Pjanic, Pedri, Raphinha, Lewandowski, Dembele.

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