Madrid: FC Barcelona aim to seal their place in the semifinals of the UEFA Europa League when they entertain Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.
Xavi Hernandez’s men will be favourites to progress into the last four after a 1-1 draw in Germany a week ago, but should bear in mind that their two home matches in the Europa League this season ended in draws against Napoli and Galatasaray.
The Catalans have improved drastically since Xavi took over as first-team coach, and are unbeaten in their last 15 matches in all competitions, with just two losses in their last 23 games, (3-2 against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup and 3-2 against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey).
Sunday saw Barca become the first side in Spain to win after conceding three penalties in the same match when they won 3-2 away to Levante, although Xavi will make some changes to the side that won in the Ciudad de Valencia Stadium, reports Xinhua.
18-year-old Pedri will start on Thursday, with Nico Gonzalez probably stepping down to the bench, while the fact Dani Alves isn’t included in the Europa League squad, coupled with Sergino Dest’s ongoing injury, will see either Oscar Mingueza or Ronald Araujo forced to cover at right-back.
Gerard Pique is struggling to recover from a groin injury and his fitness could decide who finally plays on the right, and given that Clement Lenglet looked very shaky at the back at the weekend, Xavi would probably prefer Araujo to partner Eric Garcia.
A great part of Barca’s recovery in 2022 has been down to the success of their January signings, with Alves, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang contributing 18 goals and 13 assists between them, with Aubameyang scoring ten times and Torres netting seven goals.
Xavi will probably continue to rotate his forward with a league match at home to Cadiz next Monday, and then a trip to face Real Sociedad three days later. Sunday’s hero Luuk de Jong could find himself in the action again after his injury-time winning goal against Levante.