FC Barcelona manager Xavi has rested some of his star players for Tuesday’s Champions League match against Royal Antwerp in Belgium.
The Catalan team has already advanced to the last-16 stage of the competition and will finish first in Group H unless an extraordinary set of results occurs on the final matchday.
Indeed, Barcelona would need to lose in Antwerp, with Shakhtar Donetsk beating Porto, and a seven-goal swing in goal difference to fall to second in the section.
As a result, Xavi has taken advantage of the opportunity to rest a number of his key players following Sunday’s 4-2 home defeat to Girona in Spain’s top flight, which dropped the reigning champions to fourth place in the table, seven points behind leaders Girona.
FC Barcelona | Players Stats
Ilkay Gundogan, Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong, and Ronald Araujo are among the players who have been rested for the game, with the four key players missing the trip to Belgium.
The Catalans also have four players on the treatment table, with Marcos Alonso, Inigo Martinez, Gavi, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen all ruled out.
Inaki Pena will take over in goal in Ter Stegen’s absence, and Xavi will be able to name an experienced lineup despite the absence of some key players.
Ander Astralaga, Diego Kochen, Marc Casado, Angel Alarcon, Pau Cubarsi, Aleix Garrido, Marc Guiu, and Hector Fort are among the players hoping for opportunities to shine.
Meanwhile, Sergi Roberto, Fermin Lopez, and Ferran Torres will be hoping for opportunities to make their mark after struggling for starts recently.
Following the home defeat to Girona on Sunday night, there were new questions raised about Xavi’s position as head coach.
However, after the game, the head coach stated that he was still confident of being given the opportunity to lead the team through a difficult period of the season.
“I don’t believe this loss will cast doubt.” We had a meeting with the president and football analysts. It’s a crushing defeat, but something else could have happened,” he explained.
Barcelona had been eliminated in both of their previous Champions League group-stage campaigns under Xavi, but the head coach has led the team into the knockout round this time.
Barcelona vs. Antwerp squad:
Pena, Astralaga, Kochen; Cancelo, Kounde, Cubrasi, Fort, Christensen, Balde; Pedri, Romeu, Roberto, Garrido, Casado, F Lopez; F Torres, Raphinha, Felix, Yamal, Alarcon, Guiu; F Torres, Raphinha, Felix, Yamal, Alarcon, Guiu