La Liga action is back after the first international break of the season and all the La Liga heavyweights are in action on Saturday with Champions League group stage taking place next midweek. Barcelona welcome newly-promoted Alaves at Camp Nou in the third game week of the season and are strong favourites to see them off even with a host of key players either injured, returning from injury or simply returning from international duty.
Alaves have made a decent start to their La Liga campaign after a decade-long absence from the top tier of Spanish football. The Segunda division winners from last season shocked Atletico Madrid in the season opener with a 1-1 stalemate before managing a 0-0 draw with Sporting Gijon. Luis Enrique’s side started their season with a 6-2 victory over Real Betis but they looked a bit off-colour in the second game week even though they managed to get a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona are currently on a 9-game winning streak. The Blaugrana have also failed to drop points in the last 3 league games at home, conceding 2 goals, and scoring 17 in those 3 games. Alaves are facing the Blaugrana for the first time since 2012 and are 10 games unbeaten heading into the game.
Both Andres Iniesta and Jeremy Mathieu have returned to training and could make the matchday squad. Lionel Messi, who missed Argentina’s draw with Venezuela with a groin problem, is a doubtful starter but will make the bench even if he is not 100%. Neymar is in line for his first start after helping Brazil win Gold medal in the Olympics.
Serbian midfielder Aleksandar Katai is in line for his Alaves debut following his deadline day move from Red Star Belgrade. Zouhair Feddal is missing through an ankle injury.
Predicted lineups and tactical setups
Barcelona, as usual, will feature in a 4-3-3 formation. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start under the bar behind the back four of Roberto, Pique, Umtiti and Alba. Busquets will start in defensive midfield Rakitic and Denis Suarez operating as the two box to box midfielders. Messi is likely to start from the bench meaning that Arda Turan will shift to the right flank. Luis Suarez will start up front while Neymar is likely to start on the left
Starting XI: ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Denis Suarez; Turan, Luis Suarez, Neymar
The visitors will start in an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation. Pacheco will start between the sticks behind the back four of Kiko, Alexis, Laguardia and Hernandez. Garcia and Llorente are likely to pair up in midfield. Camarasa will start as the number ten with Torres and Ibai Gomez on the flanks. Deyverson will lead the line for the visitors.
Starting XI: Pacheco; Kiko, Alexis, Laguardia, Hernandez; Garcia, Llorente; Torres, Camarasa, Ibai; Deyverson