FC Barcelona

Barcelona predicted lineup vs Espanyol - La Liga

Grey Whitebloom
Xavi Hernandez is poised to take charge of his first match as manager of Barcelona in the Catalan derby
Xavi Hernandez is poised to take charge of his first match as manager of Barcelona in the Catalan derby / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Xavi Hernandez is set to take to the Barcelona dugout for the first time as the club's manager in a Catalan derby against Espanyol on Saturday evening.

The walking, talking embodiment of Barcelona's 'DNA' has been charged with steering his club out of a nosedive that has seen them sink as low as ninth with almost a third of the season gone. Xavi flirted with a number of formations during his two years at the helm of Qatar's Al-Sadd, though seemingly settled upon a back-three this season.

However, at a club where the president reportedly demanded a return to the 4-3-3 system that Xavi himself thrived in a decade ago, the new coach may be persuaded to tweak his set up.

Barcelona predicted lineup vs Espanyol - La Liga

1. Goalkeeper & defenders

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) - His footwork may be more highly valued by Xavi, but Barcelona's number one is in the midst of a shot-stopping crisis, with the fourth-worst goals prevented tally in division (per Opta).

Sergi Roberto (RB) - While the return of Dani Alves has been joyfully greeted, the 38-year-old cannot be registered to play just yet. With Sergino Dest also injured, Roberto could once again be shoehorned in at fullback.

Ronald Araujo (CB) - One of the few Barcelona defenders with even a hint of dynamism, Araujo's growing ability to read the game ensures his rapid ascension up the pecking order will continue.

Gerard Pique (CB) - Having already fallen victim to Xavi's strict new rules, Barcelona's budding entrepreneur may well have more time to focus on rectifying the defensive woes his side currently endure.

Jordi Alba (LB) - One of several (perhaps too many) players long enough in the tooth to have played alongside Xavi, Alba hasn't yet had his attacking thrust dulled by age this term.

2. Midfielders

Pedri (CM) - After 64 appearances for club and country in the space of 12 months last season, Pedri - mystifyingly - has been hampered by injury so far this term, but may make his first La Liga start since August after returning to training.

Sergio Busquets (CM) - Having touted Xavi as a future Barcelona manager back in 2018, Busquets has the chance to play for his former teammate - it would be just plain awkward if he wasn't selected.

Frenkie de Jong (CM) - Yet to replicate the sensational form that made him the most coveted midfielder in European football while at Ajax - thanks in no small part to the crisis ensuing around him - De Jong is now on his fifth different Barcelona coach in two and a half years.

3. Forwards

Gavi (RW) - Hardly a natural winger, the 17-year-old (*obligatory age mention - check*) has proven so impressive for club and country this season he can't be left out.

Memphis Depay (ST) - Burdened with the unenviable job as the main replacement for Lionel Messi, Memphis has approached the task with a typical swagger and can scarcely be lumbered with any of the blame for their current malaise.

Philippe Coutinho (LW) - While Xavi lauded the talent of Ousmane Dembele at his own presentation, the former midfielder's options in the continued absence of the Frenchman may leave him with few choices other than Coutinho.

You can read 90min's preview of Barcelona vs Espanyol here.