FC Barcelona faces a pivotal challenge this Wednesday against Almería in their last official match of 2023. The team under Xavi Hernández, following two recent stumbles against Girona and Valencia, finds themselves compelled to secure a victory to ignite the much-awaited resurgence. It's a moment that demands a display of strength, even against the bottom-dwelling team, Almería, who arrives at Montjuïc without having tasted the sweetness of victory yet.
Winning convincingly, both in gameplay and result, would provide a much-needed boost to the reigning La Liga champions at the midway point of the season, especially with the imminent Supercopa de España and the onset of the Copa del Rey. The urgency for a victory cannot be overstated and must not be delayed any further.
This is not a match for experimentation or rest; the stakes are incredibly high after finding themselves nine points behind Girona and seven behind Real Madrid in the previous matchday. Furthermore, Barcelona must put an end to their streak of 16 consecutive games without scoring three goals and 17 without clinching a victory by more than a narrow margin.
Consequently, Barcelona is obliged to field all available heavyweights. Iñaki Peña will stand guard in goal, flanked by Joao Cancelo and Balde on the wings, with Koundé and Araujo likely holding the central defensive positions. Christensen, who started in consecutive defeats against Girona and Antwerp, lost his spot in Mestalla.
In the midfield, with De Jong suspended due to accumulating five yellow cards against Valencia and injuries sidelining Gavi and Pedri, Gündogan is expected to play as a defensive midfielder, supported by Sergi Roberto and Fermín. Upfront, Raphinha and Joao Félix will likely take the flanks with Lewandowski leading the attack, albeit with only one goal in his last six appearances.
Should Xavi opt for a more offensive game plan, Ferran might come in for Joao Félix on the left, although the Portuguese has started in only two out of 14 Liga games and substituted in just twice, once due to being the last to join.
These are the possible lineups for the match according to Sport:
FC Barcelona: Iñaki Peña; João Cancelo, Ronald Araújo, Andreas Christensen, Alejandro Balde; İlkay Gündogan; Sergi Roberto, Fermín López; Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, and Joao Félix.
Almería: Luis Maximiano; Alejandro Pozo, Chumi, César Montes, Édgar González, Sergio Akieme; Léo Baptistão, Iddrisu Baba, Dion Lopy, Sergio Arribas; and Largie Ramazani.