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After a long preseason and a very busy summer transfer window that is still far from over, Barcelona officially begin what will be a fascinating 2022-23 season when they welcome Rayo Vallecano to the Spotify Camp Nou for the La Liga opener on Saturday night.
Barça start the league campaign as favorites for the title alongside defending champs Real Madrid, and this promises to be a tight race all along with Atlético Madrid always lurking. Dropping early points could prove crucial at the end, and winning on Saturday is a must against a very talented and well-organized Rayo side.
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Xavi Hernández received many reinforcements to his squad, but figuring out the starting XI for this weekend is truly an impossible task. As of this writing none of the summer signings have been officially registered, and Barça face a race against the clock to give the coach a full squad for Saturday.
Even with all the doubts surrounding the availability of so many players, here’s how we think the Blaugrana will line up against Rayo.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There are so many rumors surrounding the whole registration issue that we’ve decided to ignore them and act as though all the summer signings will be available for Saturday for the purpose of this prediction piece. It just makes everything easier, so keep that in mind. If we’re way wrong, it’s not our fault.
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Beginning at the back, Xavi seems to have three starter-level center-backs to choose based on their preseason performances: Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen and Eric García all played at a very high level during exhibition season and at the moment are ahead of Jules Koundé who only played half an hour in the Joan Gamper Trophy coming off groin surgery and has been in training for just two weeks.
Koundé will no doubt win his place in the XI very quickly and will be one of the first names on the teamsheet, but he’s probably not starting on Saturday. If Xavi decides to go with a true right-back, then Sergiño Dest starts; if he goes with a hybrid defense, Araujo will be a full-back with Christensen and Eric in the middle and Jordi Alba on the left.
Franck Kessie was a welcome surprise during preseason and with Frenkie De Jong’s situation so unclear, the Ivorian is well in contention for a place in midfield. But even with Kessie’s good performances, the trio in the middle seems pretty set for the start of the season.
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Captain Sergio Busquets is beginning what may very well be his final season as a Blaugrana, and with all the talent around him he could rediscover his best football on a consistent basis and be a real asset all year long. Pedri will never be dropped as long as he’s healthy, and Gavi seems to have Xavi’s trust even with his ups and downs which are completely natural for an 18-year-old kid.
Who knows what the future holds for Frenkie, and if his future has anything to do with Bernardo Silva ending up in a Barça uniform. But until the transfer window shuts, Gavi-Busi-Pedri will be the number one choice in the middle of the park.
Ousmane Dembélé, Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha separated themselves during preseason games and are easily Barça’s best three attackers right now. Until Ansu Fati gets into a real rhythm after being on the sidelines for the better part of 18 months, it’s hard to see any of those three coming out of the team anytime soon.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will probably stay, and Ferran Torres will be ready soon once his foot is completely healed. Auba, Ferran and Ansu form an excellent trio that fits well together, and it’s truly remarkable that they are Barça’s second choice attack this season. All three also have the potential to start in games that matter, but that’s probably not happening right now.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Eric, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Raphinha (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona will line up against Rayo Vallecano? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!
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