?Barcelona will be looking to continue their La Liga dominance on Sunday evening when they take on relegation strugglers Alaves at the Camp Nou.
Ernesto Valverde’s outfit are still the only side to remain undefeated in the league across Europe’s top-five so far this season, and with the expected added influence of record-signing Philippe Coutinho from here on in, the 53-year-old will be confident he can lead Blaugrana to another three this weekend.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the best potential lineup the Spaniard could field ahead of Barca welcoming Alaves to the Camp Nou…
Despite Jasper Cillessen keeping a clean sheet during Barcelona’s 2-0 Copa del Rey victory over Espanyol on Thursday evening, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will likely be the chosen one between the sticks on Sunday evening.
The 25-year-old has been imperative in his side’s defensive success so far this term, a record that sees them sit level with the watertight Atletico Madrid at the top of the goals against charts.
As seems to be Valverde’s way for league fixtures, ?Nelson Semedo will likely get the nod ahead of the impressive Sergi Roberto at right-back for the visit of Alaves, even though the Spaniard has been in inspired form this campaign, and was so again in midweek.
The remainder of the back-four are, however, pretty much set in stone, with Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti showing once again in the 2-0 win over Espanyol how much their partnership has flourished since the 24-year-old France international’s arrival.
Alongside them will be the ever-present Jordi Alba, whose link up play with Lionel Messi has been a much utilised outlet this season.
I know what you are thinking, “No Iniesta, are you mad?!?”
However, the 33-year-old’s appearances have been well managed by Valverde so far this term, with it a rarity seeing the veteran last over the hour mark in any outing.
The likelihood is, especially considering Paulinho’s start from the substitutes’ bench on Thursday, that the Brazilian will be joined by Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquests in midfield, after Iniesta recorded 68 minutes in midweek.
The impressive middle three will offer enough defensive balance through Busquets, while possessing a potent attacking threat via Rakitic, and of course a combination of the two courtesy of the reborn Paulinho.
?The forward line, however, could well be the true headline maker, as Sunday’s clash with Alaves could see Coutinho make his first start for Blaugrana since his £140m move from Liverpool earlier this month.
The Brazilian impressed during his 22-minute cameo appearance in midweek, and as was the case with Ousmane Dembele just a few weeks ago, the 25-year-old could break into the starting lineup after a return from injury following just one short showing.
Alongside him will also be fellow former Red Luis Suarez, who continued to reap the benefits from his purple patch with a goal on Thursday, as well as, of course, Messi, who netted a brace in the reverse fixture back in August.