For all the problems, chaos and heartbreak off the pitch, FC Barcelona’s season has started pretty well on the green, green grass of Camp Nou.
The Blaugrana welcomed Real Sociedad to their church last weekend, and while others smelt blood and vulnerability, the hosts stood firm. Ronald Koeman’s men excelled in a 4-2 victory over the visitors, and they were largely comfortable throughout the 90 minutes.
Barça’s tour of slaying Basque country clubs is not over yet, as they travel to Stadio San Mames to take on Real Sociedad’s bitter rivals, Athletic Club. The Catalan giants boast a decent record over the Bilbao-based opponents, having won three of their last four meetings in 2021 alone.
Koeman will be encouraged by the positive signs on show in the 4-2 victory last weekend, as many of his stars (particularly in the final third) impressed. But which players should the Dutchman select for this important clash?
Neto (GK) – Marc-Andre ter Stegen is still out through injury so Neto will pull on the gloves once more to face Bilbao. He might not get away with conceding two this time round, though.
Sergino Dest (RB) – An exciting prospect at right-back, Dest is demonstrating he more than possesses what it takes to replace Nelson Semedo.
Gerard Pique (CB) – The man took a pay-cut and scored the first goal of the season all in the same week. Build him a statue – when you’ve got the money to do so, of course.
Eric Garcia (CB) – Learning the trade next to the timeless Pique, Garcia will be up to speed and outwitting opposition forwards in no time. There’s a reason Pep Guardiola loved him so much.
Jordi Alba (LB) – Another legend of the backline, Alba is probably hurting at the absence of Lionel Messi, but he’ll find another superstar to link up with seamlessly this weekend.
Pedri (CM) – Game number 827 for Pedri in his brief career. The boy loves playing, and we love watching him play. It’s remarkable how important he has become to this Barça team.
Sergio Busquets (CM) – Few better in the world at this position, and Barça will utilise those skills against Bilbao. It could be a tough evening against a strong opponent, so buckle up, Sergio.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – Another glossy operator in the side, De Jong completes the midfield. He suits this team’s style down to the ground, and is a firm favourite of Koeman.
Antoine Griezmann (RW) – Never quite fitted into Barcelona’s plans while Messi’s shadow loomed large over Camp Nou, but Griezmann has now been handed his chance to prove himself. Take it, Antoine.
Memphis Depay (ST) – He may not get the opportunity to play with Messi, but Depay is loving life in Barcelona. He’s bound to get on the scoring trail in La Liga soon enough.
Martin Braithwaite (LW) – It’s time for the rebuild. Braithwaite has been the butt of too many jokes at Barça, but his brace against Sociedad showed he’s come back hungry from Euro 2020 and is ready to explode.