The news of Dembele’s contract brouhaha may be saturating the atmosphere at the Nou Camp, but the league goes on with Matchday 22 around the corner.
The Catalan giants are once again left ruing the unfortunate injury lay off of Ansu Fati who recently got back from a lengthy surgical procedure. Although a heavy blow, Barca will be happier the injury concerns of Pedri are nothing much as first feared.
From the official team list, Dembele has been dropped despite training with the team until he clarifies his contract issue. Martin Braithwaite is also back from his injury lay off and is included in the match day squad. Barca have suffered back to back defeats in as many matches and would be looking to clinch this one due to its importance in the fight for a Champions League spot.
Out: Ansu Fati, Gavi, Ousmane Dembélé, Eric García, Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti (out), Memphis Depay (doubt)
Traditionally, matches between the teams are usually upbeat and full of fireworks. Here are three things we can expect from the match –
• It’s All About La Liga Now
With the Copa del Rey gone and the Champions League lost, everything is to play for now in La Liga. The Catalan giants cannot continue to cry wolf about being short-changed but have to start making do with what they have.
Alaves is currently 19th in the table and shouldn’t be much of a resistance than Barca’s last two tough fixtures. Although a tough team, Alaves is yet to win FC Barcelona in any competition since they stunned Barca 1-2 in 2016 at Nou Camp in a La Liga match.
• High Defensive Line from Deportivo Alaves
Under Jose Mendilibar, Alaves has operated slow defensive lines. With this strategy in mind, 4-4-2 has been the preferred formation deployed by the coach while relying on quick counters to stun the opponent.
Barca have been known to constantly fall prey to this type of plays due to the team’s philosophy and high pressing when with the ball. This leaves openings that opposing teams have continuously exploited. How Xavi Hernandez managed this will go a long way in avoiding such counterattacks.
When Barca and Deportivo Alaves played at the Camp Nou earlier this season, he did equalise to hand his team a vital draw.
The veteran striker has been a bright light in a team on a decline. However, his goal and assist ratio this season (10 goals and 2 assists) means that whoever man’s the central positions in defence must beware of the threat he poses.