Despite all the problems, chaos and grief off the pitch, FC Barcelona’s season has started off pretty well on the green grass of Camp Nou.
The Blaugrana welcomed Real Sociedad to their church last weekend, and while others smelled blood and vulnerability, the hosts stood firm. Ronald Koeman’s men excelled in a 4-2 win over the visitors, and they were largely at ease throughout the 90 minutes.
Barca’s tour to kill clubs in the Basque country is not yet over as they travel to Stadio San Mames to take on Real Sociedad’s bitter rival Athletic Club. The Catalan giants have a decent record over Bilbao-based opponents, having won three of their last four encounters in 2021 alone.
Koeman will be encouraged by the positive signs displayed in last weekend’s 4-2 win, as many of his stars (especially in the final third) impressed. But which players should the Dutchman pick for this important clash?
Neto (GK) – Marc-Andre ter Stegen is still out due to injury, so Neto will put on the gloves again to face Bilbao. He might not get away with conceding two this time around, however.
Sergino Dest (RB) – An exciting prospect at right-back, Dest shows he has more than what it takes to replace Nelson Semedo.
Gérard Piqué (CB) – The man suffered a pay cut and scored the first goal of the season in the same week. Build a statue for him – when you have the money to do so, of course.
Eric Garcia (CB) – Learning the trade alongside the timeless Pique, Garcia will be up to the task and outsmart opposing attackers in no time. There’s a reason Pep Guardiola loved him so much.
Jordi Alba (LB) – Another bottom line legend, Alba is likely suffering from Lionel Messi’s absence, but he will find another superstar to seamlessly connect with this weekend.
Pedro (CM) – Game number 827 for Pedri in his brief career. The boy loves to play and we love to watch him play. It’s remarkable how important he has become for this Barca team.
Sergio Busquets (CM) – Little better in the world in this position, and Barca will use those skills against Bilbao. It could be a tough night against a strong opponent, so buckle up, Sergio.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – Another brilliant operator on the side, De Jong completes the midfielder. He suits the style of this team perfectly and is a big favorite for Koeman.
Antoine Griezmann (AD) – Never quite suited to Barcelona’s plans as Messi’s shadow loomed over Camp Nou, but Griezmann has now had the chance to prove himself. Take it, Antoine.
Memphis Depay (ST) – He might not get the chance to play with Messi, but Depay enjoys life at Barcelona. He is expected to enter the La Liga scorers’ track soon.
Martin Braithwaite (LW) – It is time for reconstruction. Braithwaite has been the butt of too many jokes at Barca, but his brace against Sociedad has shown he has come back hungry from Euro 2020 and is ready to explode.